Protesters in the Libyan capital Tripoli have set the parliament building on fire. They are urging the country’s leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to step down. The military has reportedly launched an air strike on demonstrators in the city of Benghazi.
Gaddafi’s son earlier warned that Libya is on the verge of civil war.
In a televised national address, Seif Al-Islam Gaddafi said that 14 people died in clashes in Tripoli and 84 in Libya’s second-largest city Benghazi. He blamed Islamists and separatists for the violence, but admitted to the army’s mistakes in tackling the riots.
A group of Libyan religious leaders declared that any revolt against Colonel Gaddafi would be a sacred duty of any Muslim, Reuters reports.
Seif Al-Islam Gaddafi also dismissed reports that his father has fled the country, insisting that Colonel Gaddafi remains in Libya and is backed by the army.
He also confirmed that rioters had seized military bases, tanks and other equipment, and warned of a looming civil war that would wipe out the nation’s oil wealth.
According to unconfirmed reports in the media, government forces have launched an air strike on the protestors in Benghazi. No information about casualties is available at the moment. The assault was reportedly aimed against a military base where personnel took the side of the protestors.
Meanwhile, the protesters have seized control of Tripoli’s international airport, Itar-Tass reports, with reference to the CNN Turk network. According to that report, a Turkish passenger plane which was sent to evacuate Turkish citizens from the Libyan capital was not able to land because the building is reportedly under the full control of anti-government protestors.
However, this information has not been sufficiently confirmed yet, and other sources stress that the evacuation of foreign nationals is underway, and that the airport is operating normally.
According to RIA Novosti, the Russian monopoly Russian Railways is preparing a flight to evacuate 204 of its employees who are currently stationed in Libya.
Earlier on Monday, the clashes spread to the capital, where police were said to be using tear gas and live rounds to disperse the rioters. Reports are coming in from four separate protests underway in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
Human rights activists claim snipers targeted demonstrators demanding an end to the 42-year rule of Gaddafi.
International organizations are putting the death toll in Libya at well over 200, mostly in the country’s second city, Benghazi. Unconfirmed reports coming from the city also suggest that some members of an army unit have sided with protesters
Developments across region
Meanwhile, in other developments across the region, rioters continued to clash with government supporters in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, with gunfire heard on the streets.
While in Bahrain, the opposition is preparing for talks with authorities, after deadly clashes with government forces saw six people killed and dozens wounded.
Morocco is also seeing unrest, with at least 5,000 people taking to the streets of the capital Rabat, demanding King Mohammed give up some of his powers.
The pattern being seen in the Middle East shows the people’s genuine tiredness of the region’s long-lasting regimes but the picture is not just black and white. The legitimate desire of people to see changes and liberalization of regimes in their country is most welcome but, as it often occurs, “the alternative, which is Western-style democracy… might also be a dead-end street because Western-style democracy is probably not the answer for them”, warns Argentinean blog researcher, author and speaker Adrian Salbuchi.
There are very powerful lurking interests that fuel up the protests in Libya, both Islamic and Western, which aim at weakening the nation-states in the region for decades now, argues Salbuchi, and they need a transition of power in these countries to a more liberal, chaotic and, first of all, controllable Western-style democracy.
But the center and the key issue of the turmoil in the Middle East remains the State of Israel, which has its own geopolitical objectives, which to a great extent are shared by the US, Salbuchi claims.
He predicts that more nations, and not only in the Middle East, will follow the example of the Middle East revolutions. He warned about the danger of “foreign forces hijacking the national interests of those volatile nations.”
Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated calls for unrestricted internet access for all, promising another US$25 million to help fight repressive regimes online.
According to investigative journalist Webster Tarpley, Washington is using social media to drive revolts in the greater Middle East, mirroring the color revolutions of the post-Soviet space.
“What Hillary Clinton talked about is ‘digital activists’, in other words, there is a youth bulge around the world. They want to mobilize these people,” he said. “I think what she had in mind is a secret army of hackers … and that is what they were able to deploy in Egypt.”
“It is simple: you get the rich kids using Facebook and Twitter, you get the rich kids into the square. You put that on television. You convince the rest of the society that the government is deeply unpopular and the revolution takes off,” Tarpley added.