Protests in Tripoli, Interpol issues global alert for Gaddafi
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Last Updated: Saturday, March 05, 2011, 00:31
  
Cairo: Libyan forces on Friday launched fresh air attacks on rebel-held eastern parts as hundreds of protesters came out on heavily-guarded streets of Tripoli demanding the immediate ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, who faced an Interpol global alert putting restrictions on his travel.

Military jets struck hard on the eastern city of Ajdabiya, but caused no casualties or damage, witnesses were quoted as saying by the media.

In Tripoli, the stronghold of Gaddafi, braving the large presence of gun-totting security personnel and mercenaries, over 1,000 protesters hit the streets in large numbers after Friday prayers, demanding the end of his 41 years rule, chanting "Gaddafi is the enemy of God", witnesses said.

They were tear-gassed and fired upon by the forces loyal to Gaddafi.

Media reports said the protesters tore down posters of the Libyan leader and spray-painted walls with graffitis such as: "Down with Gaddafi" and "Tajoura will dig your grave."

Reports said security forces resorted to firing tear gas at the protesters to disperse the crowd.

For the first time since the uprising began on February 15, Interpol issued an Orange Notice against 68-year-old Gaddafi and 15 other Libyans, including members of his family and close associates.

The alert is aimed at ensuring that law enforcement agencies in each of the world police bodies in 188-member countries will be able to take all necessary measures to enforce travell ban against the Libyan leader and others.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama said Gaddafi has lost legitimacy and must leave office, as he authorised the use of military aircraft for humanitarian purposes in the strife-torn African nation.

"Muammar Gaddafi has lost legitimacy to lead, and he must leave," Obama said at a White House news conference.

The US President said the "violence must stop... Those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable... The aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met."

He said he had approved the use of US military aircraft to help move Egyptians "who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt."

Libyan authorities, meanwhile, blocked foreign journalists from leaving the main media hotel in Tripoli to report on any protests, BBC said.

It quoted a government spokesman as saying that correspondents were being kept in the hotel for their own protection in case of violence from "al Qaeda elements".

Control of Tripoli, the strongest remaining bastion of the Libyan leader is crucial for him with most of the eastern half of Libya out of his control in the face of the uprising.

Pro-Gaddafi forces have repeatedly used his stronghold to launch operations and bombings to take back territories in the west near Tripoli that have fallen following the uprising in the last two weeks.

The protests today in the capital comes amid more reports of clashes between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces in strategic cities.

Al-Jazzera channel quoted rebels as saying that Libyan forces carried out an air strike near a military base on the western outskirts of Ajdabiya, a town that fell in the hands of the anti-Gaddafi rebels. However, it said there was no casualties or damage.

It also reported skirmishes between Gaddafi loyalists and rebels in Ras Lanuf, the eastern oil port 660 km from the capital and in Az-Zawiyah, 50km west of Tripoli.

Pro-government forces are said to be battling hard to regain control of rebel-held towns close to the capital in a bid to create a buffer zone around Gaddafi's stronghold.

According to media reports, at least four people were killed today in heavy clashes between pro-Gaddafi forces and the rebels near an oil compound at Raslanuf.

There were conflicting reports over the control of the strategic Zawiyah, near Tripoli, with claiming that the Libyan army took control from rebel hands.

However, opposition forces claimed that they were still in control of the town.

Meanwhile, hundreds of mourners buried victims of clashes between pro-and anti-government forces in the country's east, where the opposition beat back an offensive by forces loyal to Gaddafi.

"For the people of Ajdabiya, these men are marytrs to their revolution. And the more of their comrades who are killed, the more they are determined to defeat Muammar Gaddafi," the Al Jazeera said.

Angry mourners chanted slogans, 'The blood of marytrs will not be spilled in vain', 'Gaddafi get out, Libyans don't want you', and 'Gaddafi you're crazy' as they buried the victims of clashes with pro-Gaddafi forces.

Amid the mounting pressure on the Libyan leader, a belligerent Gaddafi has refused to step down as he warned against any foreign intervention, saying it will lead to "a bloody war" in which "thousands of Libyans would die".

"We will not accept (an) American intervention. This will lead to a bloody war and thousands of Libyans will die if America and NATO enter Libya," he said at a public gathering on Wednesday.

Libyan fighter jets yesterday pounded rebel-held oil terminal town of Brega, a day after clashes between the two sides left at least 14 people dead in the region.

Gaddafi's son Saif Al-Islam told Britain's Sky News earlier that the air strikes were aimed at scaring the rebels rather than causing damage.

"This (Brega) is the oil and gas hub of Libya," he said, vowing to recapture the strategic town. "All of us, we eat, we live because of Brega. Without Brega six million people have no future because we export all of our oil from there."

Sending a tough message to the Gaddafi regime, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in the Hague that the Libayan leader, his family and close aides would be investigated for crimes against humanity.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in Washington that America had frozen assets worth USD 32 billion of the authoritarian Libyan regime and its leader Gaddafi.

This followed an executive order, signed by President, Obama, that directed the officials to freeze the assets of Gaddafi and four of his children, as well as those of Libyan government and its agencies, including the central bank and Libyan Investment Authority -- the nation's sovereign wealth fund.

The US also rejected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposal of setting up an international commission to try to work out a solution in Libya.

"If he (Gaddafi) is not responding to the many calls across the international community to step down, it is uncertain to me what an international commission is going to accomplish," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said.

"Colonel Gaddafi needs to step down. As the (US) President said, history is moving against him. He needs to recognise that and step aside for the good of his people and the good of his country," Crowley said, as France too rejected the Venezuelan offer.

Diplomatic efforts were stepped up bring the civil war to an end amid growing fears that it could lead to a mass refugee exodus across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Over one lakh people have fled Libya, where the violence in the uprising against Gaddafi has killed at least 1,000, according to UN estimates.

PTI


First Published: Saturday, March 05, 2011, 00:31


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