Gadhafi tells of dismay over lack of support in ‘fight against terrorism’
Gadhafi under increasing local, world pressure (NBC “Today,” March 5, 2011) – The Libyan opposition is calling for more protests as pressure from the West increases on Moammar Gadhafi, with President Obama declaring that the Libyan leader should leave immediately. NBC’s Richard Engel reports. (02:30)
Reuters and The Associated Press via MSNBC.com
March 5, 2011
TRIPOLI, Libya — Heavy automatic weapons fire erupted in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Sunday, the first such outbreak in Muammar Gaddafi’s main stronghold in a two-week-old insurrection against his 41-year-old rule.
It was unclear who was doing the shooting, which started at 5:45 a.m., just before daybreak, or what had caused it. Machine gun volleys, some of them heavy caliber, were reverberating around central Tripoli, along with ambulance sirens, pro-Gaddafi chants, whistling and a cacophony of car horns as vehicles sped through the vicinity. …
A government spokesman, Abdel-Majid al-Dursi, told the AP that the gunfire was celebratory, claiming that government forces had retaken the oil port of Ras Lanouf, in central Libya. But residents of Ras Lanouf said Sunday that the opposition remained in control of the port.
Tripoli is the main stronghold of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who said in a French newspaper interview released on Sunday that he was embroiled in a fight against terrorism and expressed dismay at the absence of support from abroad.
“I am surprised that nobody understands that this is a fight against terrorism,” the longtime autocrat of the North African oil-producing state told the Journal du Dimanche in excerpts of an interview due to be published later on Sunday. …
Gaddafi, who spoke to journalists from his headquarters in Tripoli, said Islamic holy war would engulf the Mediterranean if the insurrection in Libya, inspired by successful pro-democracy uprisings in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, succeeded. …
Libyan rebels were advancing from the east on Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte and clung to positions in a western town near the capital Tripoli after withstanding two armored assaults by government forces.
Calm settled back over the western town of Zawiyah after nightfall, with rifle-toting insurgents on rooftops and manning checkpoints on streets leading into the center. But the rebels said they were bracing for another tank and artillery attack by government on Sunday.
A doctor in Zawiyah, some 30 miles west of Tripoli, said at least 30 people, mostly civilians, were killed during fighting on Saturday that wrecked the town center, raising to at least 60 the death toll from two days of battles.
Britain’s Sunday Times reported that rebels had seized a British SAS special forces unit of up to eight soldiers escorting a junior diplomat in eastern Libya on a secret diplomatic mission to make contact with opposition leaders. …
The SAS intervention apparently angered opposition figures fear Gaddafi could use any evidence of Western military intervention to sway patriotic support away from the uprising, according to the London paper. …
Fight for Libya puts civil war on path to Tripoli (NBC Nightly News, March 6, 2011) – Gadhafi supporters celebrated in Tripoli after state TV reported that victory would soon be theirs, but outside Libya’s capital, the fighting tells a very different story. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports. (02:27)
By Maggie Michael and Paul Schemm
March 6, 2011
BIN JAWWAD, Libya — Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, some in helicopter gunships, pounded opposition fighters with artillery, rockets and gunfire Sunday, dramatically escalating their counteroffensive to halt the rebels’ rapid advance toward the capital.
They also battled to loosen the grip of rebels on two cities close to Tripoli. But in at least one case, their tactics appeared to lead them into a trap.
Residents said pro-Gadhafi troops punched into the city of Misrata, 120 miles east of Tripoli, the capital, with mortars and tanks but were pushed out five hours later by rebel forces. The rebel commanders intentionally opened the way for government tanks to enter the city, then surrounded them and attacked with anti-aircraft guns and mortars, said Abdel Fatah al-Misrati, one of the rebels. …
Sunday’s fighting appeared to signal the start of a new phase in the conflict, with Gadhafi’s regime unleashing its air power on the rebel force trying to oust the ruler of 41 years. Resorting to heavy use of air attacks signaled the regime’s concern that it needed to check the advance of the rebel force toward the city of Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown and stronghold. …
Libya appears to be sliding toward a civil war that could drag out for weeks, or even months. Both sides seem to be relatively weak and poorly trained, though Gadhafi’s forces have the advantage in numbers and equipment. …
An opposition force estimated at 500 to 1,000 fighters pushed out of the rebel-held eastern half of Libya and has been cutting a path west toward Tripoli. On the way, they secured control of two important oil ports at Brega and Ras Lanouf.
If the rebels continue to advance, even slowly, Gadhafi’s heavy dependence on air power could prompt the West to try to hurriedly enforce a no-fly zone over the country. …
Hundreds if not thousands of people have died since Libya’s uprising began Feb. 15 — tight restrictions on media make it near impossible to get an accurate tally. More than 200,000 people have fled the country, most of them foreign workers. …
Tripoli, the capital of 2 million, is the city most firmly in Gadhafi’s grip. Residents there awoke before dawn to the crackle of unusually heavy and sustained gunfire that lasted for at least two hours. Some of the gunfire was heard around the sprawling Bab al-Aziziya military camp where Gadhafi lives, giving rise to speculation that there may have been some sort of internal fighting within the forces defending the Libyan leader inside his fortress-like barracks. Gadhafi’s whereabouts were unknown.
Libyan authorities tried to explain the unusually heavy gunfire by saying it was a celebration of the regime taking back Ras Lanouf and Misrata, though both places appeared to still be in rebel hands. …
Libyan rebels on the move toward Tripoli (NBC Nightly News, March 28, 2011) – After advancing toward Tripoli almost unchecked for two days, Libyan rebels are having to fight for territory in the desert outside Sirte, where Gadhafi’s troops are taking a stand. NBC’s Richard Engel reports. (03:29)
Bachmann: Obama’s handling of Libya ‘troubling’ (NBC “Meet the Press,” March 6, 2011) – Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., joins David Gregory, moderator of “Meet the Press” to discuss the president’s response to the unrest in Libya. (02:24)
Related reports on this site
Gadhafi Steers Libya to Civil War (Feb. 22, 2011)
Deadly Crackdown in Libya (Feb. 20, 2011)
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — March 5, 2010
Anger at America turns deadly (MSNBC “Dylan Ratigan,” March 5, 2010) – Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center offers his take on the gun attack outside the Pentagon, populist anger, and anti-government violence. (05:53)
One year ago today, I reported that John Patrick Bedell, who opened fire at the Pentagon entrance and was killed in a shootout with Pentagon police, was fascinated with conspiracy theories, computer programming, libertarian economics, and the science of warfare.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — March 5, 2009
Rush Limbaugh (Photo: The Associated Press)
Two years ago today, on March 5, 2009, I reported that top Democrats believed they had struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party.
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