Silenced for decades, crowds in 'Liberated Libya' berate Qaddafi
Exuberance fills the streets of eastern Libya, but many can't shake the fear that Col. Muammar Qaddafi will find a way to crush their revolt.
In the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk – part of what some are calling “Liberated Libya” – a flood of criticism of Muammar Qaddafi, his sons, and the vicious tactics he’s long used on his own people pours out of locals at the slightest prompting. Many are worried that with Col. Qaddafi surrounded by still-loyal troops in Tripoli, their unfinished revolution could still fail.Skip to next paragraph
While there’s happiness – not least of all because they haven't dared speak their minds, even to their closest friends, for decades – there’s also a feeling that they had better get their word in while they still can.
Members of the Libyan Army who defected last week to the side of the protesters in Tobruk are readying for a possible reprisal from pro-Qaddafi forces. They say Qaddafi has at least three brigades of paramilitary loyalists in and around Tripoli, one controlled by his son, Khamis.
Maj. Salma Faraj Issa, a blond woman who offsets her olive green uniform with heavily kohled eyes and perfectly manicured purple fingernails, says the military in Tobruk, working with local youth, is preparing secret weapons depots in case Qaddafi manages to rally his forces.
She’s the main aide to Maj. Gen. Suleiman Mahmoud, the military commander in the Tobruk area, and was in the room when he received a call from an official in Tripoli ordering local troops to fire on demonstrators last week. Gen. Mahmoud’s answer? “No."
“This was something impossible for us,” Ms. Issa explains. “We were being asked to fire on our brothers, our sisters, We decided to stand with the people.”
Now Mahmoud has a death sentence on his head. But his decision early in the uprising is one reason Tobruk was liberated at a cost of so few dead – just three young men shot while they stormed the local police headquarters.
Qaddafi: Violence driven by US, Al Qaeda
Elsewhere, there were reports of violence in Libya today, particularly in and around Tripoli, the capital. Al Jazeera carried footage of a group of men – most in uniforms – who were executed with their hands bound behind their backs in a field. Al Jazeera reports, and most of the uprisings supporters believe, that the victims were officers killed for refusing orders to shoot civilians.
Ali, a retired naval officer who asked that his full name not be used, says a general who defected with his men in the town of Zawia has twice tried to bring forces into Tripoli, but was repulsed by heavy weapons fire. An unconfirmed report by a source in Zawia claims there have been dozens of local casualties.