By Edward Yeranian
Scattered protests continued in Libya Saturday, amid reports of further defections by former top officials to the side of the insurgents. Popular protests also continued in Yemen and several other Arab countries, as well.
A large crowd of mostly young protesters chanted “Libya is free, Libya is free, Gadhafi get lost,” in the Western town of Misrata on a video posted on Facebook. Misrata was the scene of bloody clashes several days ago between forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and residents of the city.
An eyewitness told Al-Jazeera TV that several neighborhoods in the Libyan capital Tripoli were under insurgent control, following skirmishes with Gadhafi loyalists. He added that security forces loyal to Colonel Gadhafi’s government however are still present and patrolling most neighborhoods.
The colonel’s son and heir-apparent Saif al-Islam on Friday complained to reporters that news reports in the foreign press of heavy casualties during recent violence were not true. He urged the European Union to send a fact-finding mission to investigate.
“Here in Libya, we are laughing about those reports about hundreds and thousands of casualties. Soon, you will discover that what you have heard in Libya was just a big joke,” he said.
Despite the official denial, both Al-Arabiya TV and Al-Jazeera TV showed videos of dozens of young people and other insurgents killed during recent fighting. In one Youtube video, Gadhafi loyalists were seen shooting two young protesters and driving away with their bodies.
Saif al-Islam also echoed recent accusations by his father that al-Qaida was supporting the insurgent movement, calling the insurgents “terrorists”.
“If we are talking about al-Qaida, it’s not a secret. Al-Qaida issued a statement yesterday supporting those groups in Libya and they said ‘this is part of our global war against…’ I don’t know. So, go to the internet, and search there, and you will see the statement, official statement from al-Qaida issued yesterday, supporting those terrorist people,” he said.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared Saturday that it appeared that Mr. Gadhafi “no longer controls the situation in Libya.” The statement came as more former top government officials defected to the insurgent movement.
In Yemen, which has been rocked by popular protests against the government for over ten days, several of the country’s key tribes joined the protest movement. Protesters are calling for the resignation of veteran President Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country since 1978.
Several hundred mostly young Egyptian protesters also tried to camp out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square overnight, but were dispersed by military police, who arrested several. The protesters are demanding that Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq be replaced.
The Egyptian Army later apologized for the arrests as well as for roughing up a handful of protesters. The army also ordered the release of those detained during Friday’s large protest.