Gadhafi Loses Support of Libyan Officials, Denies Fleeing

Published on Tuesday 22nd February 2011

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is losing the support of key figures in his government as Libyan officials at home and abroad resign or defect in response to his deadly crackdown on nationwide protests demanding his ouster. Mr. Gadhafi made a brief televised statement Monday, saying he was in the Libyan capital and not Venezuela as he leaned out of the front seat of a van holding a large umbrella. It was his first public comment since the demonstrations began in eastern Libya last Monday and later spread to Tripoli. The protests represent the greatest challenge to Mr. Gadhafi's 42-year rule. Libyan diplomats in several countries declared they had severed relations with Mr. Gadhafi to protest attacks by his forces on anti-government protesters. Libyan Ambassador to the United States Ali Aujali told the Associated Press he believes Mr. Gadhafi should step down. Libyan embassies in Malaysia and Australia said they no longer represent him. Libyan Ambassador to India Ali al-Essawi resigned Monday in response to what he called "unacceptable" violence, including aerial bombings of civilians. A senior Libyan diplomat in the Chinese capital, Beijing, said he also had quit and urged others to do the same. Witnesses in Tripoli said Libyan helicopters and warplanes attacked civilian areas Monday, while African mercenaries and pro-Gadhafi gunmen opened fire indiscriminately to terrorize the population. Libyan state-run television said Tuesday foreign media reports of massacres in the country were "lies" aimed at destroying the morale of the public. Earlier, Libyan television said security forces loyal to Mr. Gadhafi were attacking the "hideouts" of "saboteurs," without elaborating. It also quoted the Libyan leader's son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, as saying Libyan warplanes only struck ammunition dumps. Human Rights Watch says 233 people have been killed in the uprising, mostly in the country's eastern provinces, which appear to have fallen under the control of anti-Gadhafi forces. The figure does not include casualties from Monday's violence in Tripoli. In other setbacks to Mr. Gadhafi's leadership, Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil resigned Monday in protest at the crackdown, while two Libyan fighter pilots flew their jets to Malta, saying they had defected after being ordered to attack demonstrators. The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said Monday at least nine Libyan cities, including Benghazi, Sirte and Misrata, were in the hands of the protesters. The reports could not be independently confirmed because Libya has barred the entry of foreign journalists and cut some communication networks in the country.

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