23rd February, 2011
A defiant Moammar Gaddafi has vowed to fight to his â€œlast drop of bloodâ€ and roared at supporters to strike back against Libyan protesters to defend his embattled regime Tuesday, signaling an escalation of the crackdown that has thrown the capital into scenes of mayhem, wild shooting and bodies in the streets. He referred to the protesters as rats and cockroaches.
The speech by the Libyan leader â€” who shouted and pounded his fists on the podium â€” was an all-out call for his backers to impose control over the capital and take back other cities. After a week of upheaval, protesters backed by defecting army units have claimed control over almost the entire eastern half of Libyaâ€™s 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) Mediterranean coast, including several oil-producing areas.
â€œYou men and women who love Gadhafi … get out of your homes and fill the streets,â€ he said. â€œ
Celebratory gunfire by Gaddafi supporters rang out in the capital of Tripoli after the leaderâ€™s speech, while in protester-held Benghazi, Libyaâ€™s second-largest city, people threw shoes at a screen showing his address, venting their contempt.
State TV showed a crowd of Gaddafi supporters in Tripoliâ€™s Green Square, raising his portrait and waving flags as they swayed to music after the address. Residents contacted by The Associated Press said no anti-government protesters ventured out of their homes after dark, and gun-toting guards manned checkpoints with occasional bursts of gunfire heard throughout the city.
International alarm rose over the crisis, which sent oil prices soaring to the highest level in more than two years on Tuesday and sparked a scramble by European and other countries to get their citizens out of the North African nation. The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting that ended with a statement condemning the crackdown, expressing â€œgrave concernâ€ and calling for an â€œimmediate end to the violenceâ€ and steps to address the legitimate demands of the Libyan people.
Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel called Gaddafiâ€™s speech â€œvery, very appalling,â€ saying it â€œamounted to him declaring war on his own people.â€ Libyaâ€™s own deputy ambassador at the U.N., who now calls for Gaddafiâ€™s ouster, has urged the world body to enforce a no-fly zone over the country to protect protesters.