In televised speech, Libyan leader blames youths inspired by regional events for uprising and vows to die a “martyr“.
Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has vowed to fight on and die a “martyr”, calling on his supporters to take back the streets from protesters demanding his ouster, shouting and pounding his fist in a furious speech on state TV.
Gaddafi, clad in brown robes and turban, spoke on Tuesday from a podium set up in the entrance of a bombed-out building that appeared to be his Tripoli residence hit by US air raids in the 1980s and left unrepaired as a monument of defiance.
“I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents … I will die as a martyr at the end,” he said.
“Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the revolution, I am not a president to step down … This is my country. Muammar is not a president to leave his post.”
“I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired … when I do, everything will burn.”
He called on supporters to take to the streets to attack protesters. “You men and women who love Gaddafi …get out of your homes and fill the streets,” he said. “Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs … Starting tomorrow the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them.”
Gaddafi said “peaceful protests is one thing, but armed rebellion is another”.
“From tonight to tomorrow, all the young men should form local committees for popular security,” he said, telling them to wear a green armband to identify themselves. “The Libyan people and the popular revolution will control Libya.”
The speech, which appeared to have been taped earlier, was aired on a screen to hundreds of supporters massed in Tripoli’s central Green Square.
At times the camera panned out to show a towering gold-coloured monument in front of the building, showing a fist crushing a fighter jet with an American flag on it – a view that also gave the strange image of Gaddafi speaking alone from behind a podium in the building’s dilapidated lobby, with no audience in front of him.
Shouting in the rambling speech, Gaddafi declared himself “a warrior” and proclaimed: “Libya wants glory, Libya wants to be at the pinnacle, at the pinnacle of the world”.
Among the other points made by Gaddafi in his speech:
He called on the people to catch what he called drugged young people and bring them to justice.
He called on the people to “cleanse Libya house by house” unless protesters on the streets surrendered.
He warned that instability in Libya “will give al-Qaeda a base”.
He cited the examples of an attack on Russian parliament and China’s crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, saying that the international community did not interfere.
He said he could do the same in Derna and Bayda.
He blamed the uprising on Islamists who wanted to create another Afghanistan, and warned that those in Bayda and Derna had already set up an Islamic Emirate that would reach Benghazi.
He said that the country’s youth was drugged and did not know anything; they were following the Islamists’ leader and their leaders would be punished with death in accordance with the Libyan law.
Just hours after Gaddafi’s speech, Libya’s interior minister, General Abdul-Fatah Younis, announced his resignation and support for what he called the “February 17 revolution”.
In a video obtained by Al Jazeera, he was seen sitting on a desk reading a statement that also urged the Libyan army to join the people and their “legitimate demands”.