By Elizabeth Arrott
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says his people will defend their nation to the last from an international coalition. Western-led forces have been attacking military positions in a bid to enforce a no-fly zone and protect anti-Gadhafi forces.
In an audio address broadcast on state television, Colonel Gadhafi spoke to his enemies in typically stark terms.
“You are with the devil,” he said, “and the party of the devil will be defeated.” Colonel Gadhafi added that there is no justification for the attack that began Saturday led by the United States, Britain and France. He accused the nations of interfering in order to steal Libya’s oil wealth.
The Libyan leader also promised a strong counterattack, saying that he had opened the nations arms depots and all Libyans would take up weapons against foreign forces.
His audio message was televised Sunday morning, along with the image of a statue of a fist crushing a U.S. jet, a reminder of his long history at odds with western nations.
The initial launch of more than 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Libyan military and air defense targets, and continued overflights by military jets, seemed to have had some effect. Residents of the eastern city of Benghazi reported that a government advance on the rebel headquarters appeared to have stalled.
Opposition forces say they are preparing to resume their offensive against pro-Gadhafi forces.
But in the west, both in the capital, Tripoli, and in Misrata, which has been under government siege, those who have opposed Colonel Gadhafi say they remain afraid to go outside.
Pro-Gadhafi groups in Tripoli rallied to the leader’s defense, camping out at his Bab al-Azizia compound – effectively serving as a human shield.
Libyan officials said dozens of civilians had been killed in the initial attacks, though there was no independent confirmation of the reports. It is the largest attack on an Arab nation since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The initiative drew praise from some for protecting the lives and aspirations of those opposed to Colonel Gadhafi. But others saw a double standard, and questioned why similar action has not been openly considered against leaders in Bahrain and Yemen, both U.S. allies, when they have met popular uprisings with force.