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February 21, 2011

Qaddafy's Air Force Now Bombing Protesters
Update: Two Pilots Fly Planes to Malta, Defect, Rather Than Bomb Protesters

Update: Effective defection.

...

Mubarak's wait-'em-out strategy didn't work. Qaddafy's got a different plan.

Al-Jazeera reported Monday that the Libyan air force has bombed protesters who were on their way to an army base, according to eyewitness testimony.

The protesters were reportedly heading to the army base to obtain ammunition, but witnesses said the air force bombed the demonstrators before they could get there.

Meanwhile, it's claimed Qaddafy fled Tripoli. But we heard that with Mubarak and Cairo, too. Some headlines:

Protesters appear to have taken control of second city Benghazi Up to 400 feared dead after dozens killed in overnight clashes Justice minister resigns over 'excessive use of violence' Mystery as two Libyan fighter jets land in Malta David Cameron declares regime response is 'appalling and unacceptable' Gaddafi's son says: 'We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet' UN warns that British Government could be guilty of 'complicity' in killings

That last one seems to be about the UK's "cozy" trade relationship with Libya -- everyone remembers UK trading blood for oil by releasing the supposedly cancer-stricken Lockerbie bomber in a move thought made to secure oil rights for BP.

With autocratic governments already toppled by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, there was a sense that Gaddafi's iron grip was being severely tested.

'Libya is the most likely candidate for civil war because the government has lost control over part of its own territory,' said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Centre in Qatar.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, protesters appeared to be largely in control after forcing troops and police to retreat to a compound. Government buildings were set ablaze and ransacked.

'People here in Benghazi are laughing at what he is saying. It is the same old story (on promised reform) and nobody believes what he says,' a lawyer in Libya's second city told the BBC after watching Saif al-Islam's speech.

'Youths with weapons are in charge of the city. There are no security forces anywhere,' University of Benghazi professor Hanaa Elgallal told Al Jazeera International television.

Salahuddin Abdullah, a self-described protest organiser, said: 'In Benghazi there is celebration and euphoria ... The city is no longer under military control. It is completely under demonstrators' control.'

Qaddafy has killed hundreds of people in the clashes, and of course he remains unpunished for Lockerbie and a number of other terrorist massacres he was behind.



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