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Gadhafi Continuing Bloody Crackdown in Face of Large Protests
February 21, 2011

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Libya is ablaze with protests against leader Moammar Gadhafi, and the government is fighting back with firepower.

Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, resembles a war zone, as protesters have stormed police stations and government buildings and security forces have fired into crowds. In that city, however, some military units have switched sides and joined the protesters. Some people were seen to wave the flag of the monarchy, ousted by Gadhafi and others in a 1969 coup.

Warplanes patrolled the skies above Tripoli, the country's capital, and snipers on rooftops endeavored to keep more people from flocking into the central Green Square and in front of Gadhafi's palace. The People's Hall, where the country's government sits several times a year, was on fire.

Gadhafi himself appeared on state television, in an attempt to argue that he was still in control of the country. His son, Seif al-Islam, had appeared on state television earlier, with warnings of a civil war and other consequences for those speaking out against the government. State TV also showed images of pro-government crowds waving palm fronds and pictures of Gadhafi.

Gadhafi's son promised far-reaching reforms if the protesters would turn nonviolent and also announced the formation of a group to investigate the more than 200 deaths that have already resulted from the weeklong protests.

Signs of discontent appeared in the higher levels of government. Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, has resigned in protest at the government's using force to confront the protesters. Libya's ambassadors to other countries have resigned and have issued calls for Gadhafi to do the same. Also abandoning their posts were two Air Force pilots, who requested political asylum after landing in nearby Malta.

Meanwhile, in Tripoli, home to 2 million people, signs of life were scarce, as schools, stores, and government offices remained closed. Cell phone calls from outside the country could not be completed, and communication from inside was spotty at best.

International response was marked. British Prime Minister David Cameron took time out from his visit to Egypt to criticize the violent crackdown. Other European leaders expressed concern as well, and there was talk of evacuations. Oil prices jumped as well, to the highest levels in more than two years.



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