Libya Revolt Widens as Expatriates Flee, Qaddafi Vows to Fight
By Alaa Shahine, Ola Galal and Nayla Razzouk
Feb 23, 2011
Governments rushed to evacuate thousands of expatriates from Libya as army units defected and a former aide to Muammar Qaddafi warned that the spreading revolt may topple the regime within days.
The U.S. has chartered a ferry that will take American citizens from the Libyan capital, Tripoli, to Malta today and Turkey said it has mounted the biggest evacuation in its history to remove some 5,000 nationals by sea and air. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said getting British citizens out of the Libya is the top Foreign Office priority, as his government deployed a Royal Navy frigate near Libya to help.
The evacuations follow Qaddafi’s warning in a televised speech late yesterday that he will fight the uprising until his “last drop of blood.” Heavy gunfire broke out again in Tripoli today and the streets were empty, the Associated Press said. Army units in Benghazi and Tobruk have defected, leaving the eastern port cities under the control of Qaddafi’s opponents, his former chief of protocol Nuri al-Mismari said.
While Middle East rulers have tried to put down uprisings that have overthrown leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and spread to Bahrain and Yemen, none used as much force as the Libyan ruler. Qaddafi’s crackdown on the week-long demonstrations has already left almost 300 dead, according to Human Rights Watch, and driven oil prices to a 2 1/2-year high. Libya holds Africa’s largest oil reserves.
‘Matter of Days’