News Brief – February 24, 2011
Beleaguered Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has blamed the popular uprising against his rule on al-Qa’ida leader Osama bin Laden.
Speaking by telephone to Libyan television, Gaddafi offered condolences for those who had been killed in the fighting.
Calling for calm amongst Libyans, Gaddafi said those fighting against his regime were taking hallucinogenic drugs and that bin Laden was “the real criminal”. He urged Libyans not be swayed by the al Qaeda leader.
“Bin Laden … this is the enemy who is manipulating people,” Gaddafi said.
“I only have moral authority,” said Gaddafi, who has long sought to present himself as a leader of a revolution, rather than a traditional executive head of state.
“No sane person” would join the protests against his rule, he said and called on citizens to take weapons from those who were protesting.
Referring to violent clashes in the town of Zawiyah, about 30 miles from the capital Tripoli, Gaddafi said, “What is happening in Zawiyah is a farce. … Sane men don’t enter such a farce.”
“Leave the country calm,” he told Libyans.
Meanwhile, in another blow to Gaddafi’s authority his cousin, Gaddaf al-Dam, one of his inner circle and officially his liaison with Egypt, has denounced Gaddafi’s actions.
In a statement issued in Cairo today, Gaddaf al-Dam said he had left Libya for Egypt “in protest and to show disagreement” with the crackdown.
His statement followed many other high-level defections from Gaddafi’s regime; including many Libyan ambassadors around the world, the justice minister and the Libyan interior minister.