Protests in Tripoli, Interpol issues global alert for Gaddafi

Last Updated: Saturday, March 5, 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 5, 2011 - 00:31

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