Libya, Day 10: Expats Flee; Journalists Enter; Chaos Continues
Morning round-up here. Scott Lucas captions the above Youtube:
Very graphic video has been posted which claims to be of Libyan soldiers bound and shot for refusing to attack protesters.
Today's most salient updates from AJE (local times in Libya, GMT+2):
4.17pm: Major General Suleiman Mahmoud, a commander in Libyan army in Tobruk, is now on the side of the Libyan people. He called Gaddafi "a tyrant" and told Al Jazeera "the people in the army are steadfast" in the city.
4.27pm: A Libyan airforce plane has crashed near Benghazi after the crew bailed out, the country's Quryna Newspaper reports. The newspaper said the crew had orders to bomb Benghazi, but refused to carry them out.
5.34pm: Italy predicts that some 300,000 Libyans could flee to Europe "if" Gaddafi falls. The country and five other European nations are trying to prepare for that possibility. They are gathered in Rome to work out a consolidated response if Gaddafi falls. On Thursday, all 27 interior ministers and justice ministers from the EU also plan to meet, Al Jazeera's Harry Smith said.
6.34pm: At least 640 people have been killed since the protests began, the International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) says. This figure is more than double the official Libyan government toll of 300 dead.
Mackey says that the above video "appears to show celebrations on the streets of Benghazi on Tuesday night, complete with fireworks." EA:
1640 GMT: Protesters in Misurata said they have wrested the west Libyan city from government control, and in a statement on the Internet, army officers stationed in the city pledged "total support for the protesters". The development is significant because Misurata would be the first city outside eastern Libya to fall into the hands of the opposition.
1620 GMT: Lots of chatter that the aircraft carrying Aisha Qaddafi, daughter of the Libyan leader, has been denied landing, first in Beirut, Lebanon, and then in Malta. [AJE: "The plane is said to be headed back to Libya, Cal Perry reports from Valletta."]
1615 GMT: The Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister has warned journalists who have entered the country illegally that they face arrest unless they surrender to the authorities. With the regime's guards leaving the border with Egypt, journalists have been crossing into the eastern part of the country over the last 24 hours. Those areas are in the hands of the opposition; however, there are reports of the regime's mercenaries roaming in the area, especially at night.
7.46pm: Key towns and cities in Libya are under protester-control, including Benghazi and Tobruk. International media organisations, including Al Jazeera, are now able to broadcast Live pictures from these cities. Here is a screen shot of footage we were able to get today:
8.26pm: Foreign countries continue to evacuate their citizens from Libya using varied modes of transportation. France and Russia have sent planes, the UK has sent a warship and planes, the US has sent a ferry from Malta and China has sent jets, ships and fishing vessels. ... Turkey has 25,000 nationals in Libya and the country is launching the biggest evacuation operation in its history.
9.05pm: The capital Tripoli is said to be in virtual lockdown and there are reportedly pro-Gaddafi militia-men roaming the streets. Meanwhile Benghazi, Tobruk, Derna and other cities now celebrating having liberated themselves from Gaddafi.
On the economic front:
As much as a quarter of Libyan oil output has been shut down, the Reuters news agency reports. Libya produces almost 2 per cent of the world's oil. ... [Al Jazeera's Harry Smith reports] that the direct oil pipeline between Libya and Italy - the so-called "Green Stream" - has completely "dried up". ... US crude oil futures hit $100 a barrel on Wednesday for the first time since 2008.
And the very latest from AJE:
10.54pm: Gaddafi will play a major role in any regime formed in Libya, but new blood will need to take over direct control and introduce reform, Saadi Gaddafi, a son of the embattled leader told the Financial Times (FT). He also said his brother Saif Gaddafi was working on a new constitution and would make an announcement soon; but he gave no further details, the FT said.
12:07am: Barack Obama, the US president, for the first time has spoken on the Libyan crisis. He offered his condolences to the people who have been killed and suffered in the violence during the Libyan uprising. He said that the suffering and bloodshed is "outrageous" and it is "unacceptable". The U.S. president on Wednesday said the violent crackdown in Libya violated international norms and that he had ordered his national security team to prepare the full range of options for dealing with the crisis. ... [He said] he would send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Geneva for a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the weekend and for talks with allied foreign ministers. [Full transcript at The Guardian]
1:14am: Gaddafi vows to fight till his 'last drop of blood,' urges supporters to take to streets.