In a decisive show of force, the Libyan regime used lethal violence against protesters, including turning the air force on its people Monday in a last-ditch bid to stay in power.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last Sunday, security forces have killed 233 demonstrators, since the protests began. The quoted death toll is the last known figure, but given the amount of violence, including Monday’s bloodbath, the death toll is surely higher.
The Libyan people are revolting against the dictatorial regime of Muammar Gaddafi, who has ruled them without elections or a constitution for 42 years.
Gaddafi told protesters that he will not tolerate any opposition to his power and will take strong measures against all protests. Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, held a televised speech early on Monday and threatened that a bloody civil war would ensue if protesters did not accept the regime’s reform offers, Al Arabiya News reported.
He said that his father is in the country and backed by the army. “We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet,” he said, reported Al Jazeera.
Gadhafi’s son did acknowledge that the army made mistakes during the protests because it was not trained to deal with demonstrators.
Saif al-Islam’s address followed reports that security forces had shot dead scores of protesters in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, where residents said a military unit had joined their cause.
Air strikes and indiscriminate shooting on the streets were witnessed in two districts of Tripoli, the largest city and capital of Libya, causing many deaths, reported Al Aribya News.
By Monday afternoon, Malta had received two Libyan Air Force Mirage jet fighters that had ignored orders to bomb a second city in Benghazi with air-to-ground rockets.
Two helicopters with seven French passengers aboard also sought refuge from Libyan forces. The airspace over Tripoli was closed on Monday according to Al Arabiya, which makes it hard for countries to safely escort their citizens out of Libya.
“Libya is trying to impose an information blackout, but it can’t hide a massacre,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division.
The number of deaths HRW reported in five cities did not include many hospital deaths and the results of Monday’s shootings.
Compared with the demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, it is much harder to get information out of Libya, especially since the Libyan regime ordered an Internet shutdown on Friday.
Many diplomats have spoken out against “the tyrant Muammar Gadhafi,” Reuters reported.