Libya’s Interior Minister Quits; Gadhafi Loses Control of the East

Libya’s interior minister quit Tuesday and announced he was joining the popular revolt after he learned Moammar Gadhafi had ordered 300 unarmed civilians to be killed in Benghazi and that the dictator was planning widespread air attacks on protesters, CNN reported.

“Gadhafi told me he was planning on using airplanes against the people in Benghazi and I told him that he will have thousands of people killed if he does that,” Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi told CNN in an Arabic-language telephone interview.

Al Jazeera aired a video of Abidi at his desk, reading a statement that urged the Libyan army to “join the people and respond to their legitimate demands.” Abidi said many security forces had already defected.

CNN reported Abidi called Gadhafi “a stubborn man” who will not give up. “He will either commit suicide or he will get killed,” said Abidi, who said he has known him since 1964.

In Tuesday night’s broadcast, MSNBC News’ Brian Williams said Libya was “devolving into civil war.” According to several reports, the eastern part of the country is no longer under Gadhafi’s control. Libya’s ambassador to the United States, Ali Aujali, has called for Gadhafi to resign, as have many other Libyan officials.

The New York Times reported Gadhafi vowed to track down and kill protesters “house by house,” as he tightented his grip on the capital, Tripoli.

Earlier Tuesday, in a rambling 75-minute speech broadcast on the north African nation’s state TV, Gadhafi vowed to fight on and die a “martyr.”

“I am not a president to step down . . . This is my country. Moammar is not a president to leave his post,” he said. “I will fight on to the last drop of my blood.” He called on supporters to take to the streets and attack protesters. “Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs . . . Starting tomorrow the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them.”
Gadhafi called the protesters “cockroaches” and attributed the protests to foreigners, the New York Times reported.

He urged citizens to defend Libya and frequently seemed out of touch with reality: “Moammar Gadhafi is history, resistance, liberty, glory, revolution,” he declared.

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