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.
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He denied that there were protests in Libya’s second city of Benghazi – which is in the hands of antiregime forces that have declared an interim government – and blamed “sleeper cells from Al Qaeda” for undermining the army and police forces.Skip to next paragraph
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This border has witnessed chaotic scenes in recent days, with as many as 18,000 people – mostly Egyptian workers – streaming across Libya’s Western border into Tunisia in a single 24-hour span. Since the Libyan uprising began Feb. 17, more than 78,000 others have also exited east to Egypt.
As the last crowds of Bangladeshis passed through the blue gate Wednesday, the shifting mass of humanity – mostly young men – left behind a thick carpet of detritus. Broken luggage, abandoned blankets, and torn plastic carry cases spread across the holding ground, mixed with single sandals, mashed food and bread.
Some Tunisian soldiers wore surgical face masks as they herded people into lines and asked to see passports. On Wednesday, some 664 Libyans crossed into Tunisia, a “slight trend upwards,” according to European Commission (EC) officials at the gate.
The Egyptian government has taken home thousands via a fleet of chartered aircraft and several ships. China has also evacuated thousands of its nationals. But thousands more Egyptians crowded just over the Tunisian side of the border, exhausted and huddled under blankets stretched out like tents.
European and United Nations relief workers met late Tuesday with Tunisian and Egyptian officials to avert a humanitarian crisis.
“They are crying out for the international community to finance repatriation of people, because that is the key to everything,” says Hugues Burrows, an official with the EC humanitarian arm.
Just on the Libyan side of the border, the group of Qaddafi loyalists put on a show for the cameras, chanting the common refrain of dictatorships across the Arab world that they were ready to sacrifice their blood and their soul for their leader. They accused the media of fanning unrest.
“News from Al Jazeera – nobody believes it. People turn away from it and watch Libyan state radio and TV,” says Washifane.
“You hear in any country that Qaddafi is king of all of them,” he added. Then pointing out each person around him, Libyans and foreigners alike, he added: “He is king for you, for you, and for you.”