Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi says he is not going to leave Libya and will “die here as a martyr” despite huge protests, as Channel 4 News looks at his defiance, and the ongoing violence.
He denounced the uprising against his 41-year rule, and urged his supporters to take to the streets tomorrow. He also pledged to use force if necessary to “crush” the revolt, saying he would “cleanse Libya house by house” unless the protesters surrendered.
I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr. Colonel Gaddafi
He said: “I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr…I shall remain here defiant.”
Appearing in tribal dress and speaking at length, the leader of Libya said: “From tomorrow, families collect your children, leave your homes, all of you who love Muammar Gaddafi, go out on the streets, secure the streets, don’t be afraid of them.”
Channel 4 News Correspondent Faisal Islam described the speech as “dangerous, understandably paranoid, utterly divorced from his countrymen’s enveloping revolt…but still utterly vain.”
His angry address flies in the face of the popular uprising on the streets in which several hundred people have died. Libyan diplomats across the world have also called for his departure, with some branding him a war criminal – but Gaddafi made it clear he does not plan to go anywhere, echoing his son’s speech earlier in the week when he pledged to fight until the last man standing.
Amid rumours that the regime has used bombs and planes against the protesters, Colonel Gaddafi said: “We have not used force yet, but if we need to use force, we will use it.”
He called the protesters “terrorists…rats…mercenaries”, saying: “Do you want America to occupy you, like Afghanistan and Iraq?” and adding that the protesters’ crimes “are punishable by execution under Libyan law”.
Channel 4 News Special Report on the Arab revolts
State television showed what it said was live footage of hundreds of government supporters in Tripoli’s Green Square waving portraits of Gaddafi and banners supporting the veteran leader.
But refugees streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and foreign mercenaries to fight the growing rebellion.
One resident in Al Bayda, Marai Al Mahry, said that 26 people had died overnight, shot by Gaddafi loyalists – including his brother.
He said: “They shoot you just for walking on the street…It is clear they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide.”
It also appears that Eastern Libya may no longer be under Gaddafi’s control, according to reports from rebel soldiers.
Human Rights Watch said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead – and opposition groups put the figure far much higher. UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.
Up to 3,500 British nationals remain stranded in Libya, although the Foreign Office told Channel 4 News the figure could be considerably lower after people streamed out of the country earlier this week.
Airlines are struggling to land planes in the country due to damage to runways, and the UK Government is sending Royal Navy frigate HMS Cumberland to international waters near Libya to help with the evacuation if necessary.
Read more from Channel 4 News: what next for Libya?
The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.
The UN refugee agency urged Libya’s neighbours to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression.