Qaddafi loyalists denounce Libyan rebellion as refugees continue to flee
Libyans and foreign workers continued to stream across the border with Tunisia Wednesday as Muammar Qaddafi characterized the rebellion as fueled by Al Qaeda.
Ras Ajdir, Tunisia-Libya Border
A handful of pro-regime loyalists waving green flags and kissing portraits of Muammar Qaddafi arrived at Libya’s border with Tunisia Wednesday, marking territory with sirens blaring and fists raised as government forces sought to beat back rebels at points across northern Libya.Skip to next paragraph
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The parade of a couple dozen Qaddafi loyalists proclaimed Libya’s pro-democracy uprising to be a myth and that peace prevailed across Libya with “no problems,” despite ample evidence that large portions of the country remain in the hands of antiregime forces.
The Libyans handed out water, juice, and chocolate-covered cakes to hundreds of Bangladeshi workers – the tail end of an exodus of more than 86,000 foreign workers to have escaped the upheavals across this remote border into Tunisia.
The surreal scene was made-for-television propaganda, as journalists stepped through the gate into Libya to talk to the mix of border guards and young Libyan men. But the symbolic value was not lost on a day when Qaddafi appeared to be trying to reverse opposition gains against what he calls an Al Qaeda-driven insurrection by drug addicts.
“I am from free Libya, I am a happy Libyan,” says Ahmed Washifane, who wore close-cropped black hair and a green scarf – the color Qaddafi chose a decade ago for the national flag.
“No Libyans have crossed, no Libyans leave. Libyans are … Qaddafi,” Mr. Washifane says, stopping mid-sentence to kiss the scarf as a burst of emotion overcame him
“No war, no fighting – everything is good now,” says another man who gave the name Ali. “Some people take some tablets and make some problems.”
But not even those few who took part were all convinced of their cause.
“It is a sin,” said one Libyan, who appeared to be an out-of-uniform policeman, privately to a Tunisian near him. “All these people are lying, and Qaddafi is playing his last card.”
The president was defiant Wednesday, speaking to supporters in a Tripoli ballroom in his latest public appearance. “Attacks on me are seen by Libyan people as attacks on their symbol and dignity,” said Qaddafi, who often broke off his address to note the “new” chants of support he said he heard from the audience.
“We put our fingers in the eyes of those who doubt that Libya is ruled by anyone other than its people,” he said. “I have always said that the Libyan people are free [to manage themselves].”