Muammer Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, vowed to fight until the last drop of his blood had been spilt rather step down, describing anti-regime protesters as “rats“ and “mercenaries“ working to foreign agendas.
In a threatening 75-minute TV address on Tuesday, delivered from the ruins of a former Gaddafi family home bombed by US military aircraft in 1986, he called on supporters to “cleanse Libya house by house“ unless the protesters surrendered.
Shaking his fist defiantly, Mr Gaddafi said the youths who had taken to the streets of Libyan cities to oppose his rule were manipulated by others who gave them drugs and who were trying to turn the country into an Islamic state.
“These gangs are like rats,“ he said. “They represent nothing, not even one in a million of the Libyan people.“
Although forces loyal to Mr Gaddafi have already killed hundreds, the Libyan leader said he had not yet ordered the use of force. “When I do, everything will burn,“ he said.
Inspired by the revolutions that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt in the past month, Libyans have risen up against Mr Gaddafi, who has ruled them with an iron fist for more than four decades.
The Libyan leader seems to have lost control of the east of the country, traditionally a hotbed of resentment towards his rule. Residents reached by telephone said they feared a backlash from the regime and were not certain if troops stationed in the region would stay neutral.
Libya is the first major oil producing state to be affected by the wave revolts in the Middle East and oil prices surged after the country’s biggest two producers, Eni and Repsol YPF, halted production. Crude output from the country has fallen by at least a fifth this week.
The protests spread to Tripoli, the capital, at the weekend, but on Tuesday the city was calm after a night of fierce clashes in districts where security forces had carried out a crackdown to prevent fresh rallies calling for the ousting of Mr Gaddafi.
Demonstrators had planned a march to Green Square, the plaza overlooking the Mediterranean where Mr Gaddafi usually holds ceremonies and military parades. But their rally was pre-empted by security forces who attacked the impoverished area of Fashloum, home to many of the protesters, residents told the Associated Press news agency.
One resident was quoted as saying that militiamen, including African mercenaries, had “shot any moving human being“. He said ambulances were targeted, so the wounded were left. “Bodies are now in the streets: those injured and now bleeding can’t find a hospital or an ambulance to rescue them. Nobody is allowed to get in and if he gets in, he will be shot to death,“ he said.
Amid international concern about the security situation, governments scrambled to make arrangements to evacuate expatriates and hundreds of refugees crossed the border into Egypt.
Libya’s diplomatic service abroad has fractured into those calling for Mr Gaddafi to go and those loyal to the regime.
示威者曾计划游行至的黎波里的绿广场(Green Square)——卡扎菲通常在这个俯瞰地中海的广场举行各种仪式和阅兵。但当地居民对美联社(Associated Press)表示，军警对许多抗议者居住的贫穷地区Fashloum发动了先发制人的袭击，破坏了他们的游行计划。