Tripoli – Huge cracks opened in Moammar Gaddafi’s regime yesterday, as reports circulated of a bloody crackdown on protest in the capital Tripoli, Libyan government officials at home and abroad resigned, and two air force pilots defected.
Residents in Tripoli reported seeing heavily armed mercenaries hunting down demonstrators as buildings burned, looters ransacked police stations, and fighter jets and helicopter gunships rained ammunition from the skies.
Two Libyan fighter jets landed in Malta on Monday. The pilots reported that they had been ordered to bomb Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi, the cradle of the six-day-old uprising. But the pilots chose to defect instead.
While around the world and at home senior Libyan officials and diplomats resigned in outrage over the attacks against civilians, while soldiers fled their units and joined the opposition.
As the violence intensified and indiscriminate shootings were reported in Tripoli, Gaddafi appeared on state television early on Tuesday to deny “malicious reports” he had fled after several cities fell to opposition forces. In his 20 second bizarre appearance on Libyan television he was filmed leaning out of the back of a car holding an umbrella, Gaddafi claimed he was still in Tripoli.
“Oh, it is raining… I was going to talk with the youth in Green Square, and spend the night with them tonight, but it is raining and that is a good omen, so I just want to show them that I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Don’t believe the broadcasts of those stray dogs,” he said, referring to foreign media reports that he had left the country.
It was impossible to verify the location and date of Gaddafi’s appearance as it was not live.