Libya: With Over 1000 Dead, Mass Exodus Begins as Gaddafi Orders More Strikes

Muammar Gaddafi's attempts to squash the revolt in Libya have resulted in at least 1000 dead, according to the Italian foreign ministry, as he's ordered the military to strike citizens using bombs and machine guns. In a speech last night, Gaddafi urged supporters of his 41-year reign to 'take back' the streets, and swore that he would die on Libyan soil 'a martyr.'

But as he loses his grip, senior aides continue to resign and the military increasingly refuses to carry out strikes against their brethren. Most recently, Al Jazeera reports that an Air Force crew ejected themselves from their plane and let their craft crash rather than carry out orders to bomb Benghazi, and that Major General Suleiman Mahmoud, a commander in the army in Tobruk -- which protesters now control -- has abandoned all Gaddafi loyalties.

Still, he continues to make threats. His speech:

He also claimed that he had "not yet ordered the use of force", warning that "when I do, everything will burn".

Gaddafi, who termed the protests an "armed rebellion", said that security cordons set up by police and the military would be lifted on Wednesday, telling his supporters to "go out and fight [anti-government protesters]".

Fearing more bloodshed, over 20,000 people have fled the country in a mass exodus that shows no sign of stopping, enough that the interior ministers of Italy, France, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta and Italy are planning a meeting about potential immigrants. Meanwhile, French President Nicholas Sarkozy has called for immediate EU sanctions on Libya for human rights violations, with the UK foreign minister echoing his sentiments.

Read more at Al Jazeera's liveblog.

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at February 23, 2011, 4:05am

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