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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Voices From Libya: Tell Gadhafi To ‘Pack Your Bags And Go’

Gunmen prepared to fight against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi stand on a small military truck with weapons taken from a Libyan military base, in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday Feb. 24, 2011. (AP)

Gunmen prepared to fight against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi stand on a small military truck with weapons taken from a Libyan military base, in Benghazi, Libya. (AP)

Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, in a rambling phone call to state TV Thursday, blamed the uprising in his country on Osama bin Laden and claimed that al-Qaida followers are orchestrating the revolt by giving young Libyans hallucinogenic pills “in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe.”

While most of the cities in the east of the country are now under opposition control, Gadhafi is scrambling to maintain his power in the cities around the capital of Tripoli. He sent army units and militia on Thursday to attack a mosque, where anti-government protesters staged a sit-in, and to battle others who had seized control of an airport. Medical officials said 15 people were killed in the clashes.

In the capital, residents tell Here & Now that the streets are mainly clear, as people remain in their homes out of fear for their safety.

A 21-year-old woman, who doesn’t want her name used due to safety concerns, said she ventured out to check on her father, who is being detained at a military hospital, after he inadvertently got caught up in a protest.

She said that Gadhafi’s hired forces from countries like Chad are patrolling the streets.

“The African mercenaries were guarding the hospital, and they were just yelling at us, telling us, ‘no you can’t go in,'” she said. “They had weapons in their hands. If we did anything wrong, most likely we could have been shot at.”

“We need an international support… We need someone to tell the guy: ‘Come on pack your bags and go.'”

– -Libyan man, speaking about Leader Muammar Gadhafi

The woman grew up in California and returned to Libya last year. She said she took part in one protest, but left after pro-Gadhafi forces opened fire.

“We were actually shut down by live ammunition,” she said. “Everyone just scattered and left.”

In the eastern city of Benghazi, a 45-year-old man going by the name, Ahmed, said that opposition forces are firmly in control.

“[We are] very joyful and we are waiting for our sisters and brothers in the west,” he said. “But the situation in the Tripoli area and Zawiya area is not really going very well to be honest with you.”

Ahmed said that the U.S. and Europe need to step in and to help force Gadhafi out of power.

“We need an international support,” Ahmed said. “We need someone to tell the guy: ‘Come on pack your bags and go.’ ”

Robert Powell, an intelligence analyst for The Economist, said he believes Gadhafi will ultimately be forced from power and that when he is, stories will emerge about his rule.

“God knows what torture chambers will also be uncovered and also what state secrets will be uncovered. There’s a lot of conspiracy theories revolving around Colonel Gadhafi and all might be revealed very shortly.”

Some residents have told reporters they fear a worse crackdown could be coming, and are concerned that Gadhafi will unleash chemical weapons.

But Powell said, “He hasn’t used it yet, so he probably won’t use it at all. But he’s clearly willing to use a large measure of force against these protesters.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed said that concerns that Libya would become an Islamist state or one ruled by al-Qaida are overstated.

“This is bull. I’m sorry for my French, speaking this way,” he told Here & Now. “I’ve been hearing it today and yesterday on CNN. Everyone’s talking about al Qaida supporting what’s happening in Libya. We got nothing to do with Qaida.”

In Tripoli, anti-government residents are waiting to see what happens tomorrow. They have received word that opposition groups are marching to the capital to take part in protests after Friday prayers.”

The 21-year-old woman in Tripoli, who spoke to Here & Now, said she wasn’t sure if she will take part in those protests.

“We don’t know yet, because they’re kind of worried that the females would get harmed or shot at. So they’re very protective here, but if there is a big number out there, we will come out and we will support.”

–Compiled by Kevin Sullivan with reporting from the Associated Press


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