A defiant Muammar Gaddafi vowed on
Tuesday to die “a martyr” in Libya and said he would crush a revolt
which has seen eastern regions already break free from four decades of his
Swathed in brown robes, Gaddafi
seethed with anger and banged the podium outside one of his residences that was
damaged in a 1986 U.S. bombing raid that attempted to kill him.
Next to him stood a monument of a
fist crushing a U.S. fighter jet.
“I am not going to leave this
land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television,
refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters
clamouring in the streets for him to go.
Huge popular protests in Libya’s
neighbours Egypt and Tunisia have toppled entrenched leaders, but Gaddafi said
he would not be forced out by the wave of dissent sweeping through his vast and
sparsely populated oil producing nation, which stretches from the Mediterranean
to the Sahara.
“I shall remain here defiant,”
said Gaddafi who has ruled Libya with a mixture of populism and tight control
since taking power in a military coup in 1969.
The White House offered its
condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international
community had to speak with one voice on the crisis, but Washington has little
leverage over Libya which was a U.S. adversary for most of Gaddafi’s 41-year
But Gaddafi was unrepentant.
Anti-government protesters were
“rats and mercenaries,” he said, who deserved the death penalty.
Gaddafi said he would call the
people to “cleanse Libya house by house” unless protesters surrendered.
Eastern Libya is no longer under
Gaddafi’s control, rebel soldiers in the city of Tobruk said.
“All the eastern regions are
out of Gaddafi’s control … The people and the army are hand-in-hand
here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.
Human Rights Watch said 62 people
had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous
toll of 233 dead. Opposition groups put the figure far much higher.