Chaos Continues To Reign As Gaddafi Slaughters Dissenters

The situation in Libya continues to be grim as Gaddafi lashes out while power slips through his fingers.

The situation in Libya seems to be getting worse as the noose tightens around Muammar Gaddafi’s neck:

TRIPOLI, Libya — An increasingly gruesome picture began to emerge Saturday of the violent tactics used by the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to quell protesters in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, with several witnesses confirming that forces loyal to the government had been shooting people from ambulances and using antiaircraft guns against crowds.

Witnesses to the violence in Tripoli, where a tense standoff held on Saturday, also said that the government had removed dead bodies as well as the wounded from hospitals in an effort to disguise the mounting death toll in the uprising against Col. Qaddafi sweeping Libya.

Col. Qaddafi’s forces had put down demonstrators, who had taken to the streets after Friday Prayers to mount their first major challenge to the government’s crackdown, with snipers from rooftops, buckshot, and tear gas, witnesses said. There were unconfirmed reports that an armed rebel force was approaching the city on Saturday.

In Tajoura, a neighborhood of the capital where there has been significant fighting since a peaceful demonstration there last Sunday, residents had barricaded a street with old television sets and cinderblocks to try to keep out pickup trucks full of men with machine guns. A doctor working at the local clinic here said he had seen 68 people killed and 150 injured in recent days of clashes, and that residents were braced for more violence.

A rebel officer who is coordinating an attack on Tripoli, Col. Tarek Saad Hussein, asserted in an interview that an armed volunteer force of about 2,000 men — including army defectors — was to arrive in Tripoli on Friday night. There was no way to confirm his claim.

Protesters in Tripoli said that they had heard a force was on its way from the eastern cities that had fallen to rebels, but that they had been stopped in Surt, a remaining Qaddafi stronghold halfway between Tripoli and Benghazi, the opposition-controlled city where the uprising began.

Colonel Hussein was especially angered at the reports of security forces’ firing on protesters after prayers. “They did not have weapons,” he said, speaking at an abandoned army base in the eastern city of Benghazi, which is firmly under rebel control. “They shot people outside the mosque.”

Indeed, accounts of the bloodshed on Friday indicated that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces had deployed the same determined brutality as they had earlier in the week defending their leader, who has ruled for more than 40 years.

“They shoot people from the ambulances,” said one terrified resident, Omar, by telephone as he recalled an episode during the protests on Friday when one protester was wounded. “We thought they’d take him to the hospital,” he said, but the militiamen “shot him dead and left with a squeal.”

With news like this, it seems clear that the calls that we heard earlier this week for a no-fly zone over Libya were really nothing more than grasping at straws. A no-fly zone would do nothing to stop people from shooting at crowds from the back of an ambulance. Nonetheless, the calls are still coming for the United States, the United Nations, or NATO to do something to stop Gaddafi. It’s worth noting that, regardless of which body you’re talking about it would be the United States that would be bearing the brunt of any military action that took place. In the meantime, the United States has imposed sanctions directed at the assets of Gaddafi and his supporters, and the Libyan Government, but it’s hard to see how that is going to have any immediate impact, or how its going to influence the actions of a mad man.

At this point, its rather obvious that Gaddafi is on the way out. The only question is whether he leaves dead or alive (I’m guessing dead) and how much damage he inflicts before the end.

FILED UNDER: Africa, World Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    We do still have a few cruise missiles. And we and the French have special forces in the neighborhood. If we treated this as a straightforward decapitation it probably wouldn’t be hard. Don’t know what the legalities would be.

  2. jwest says:

    My associate in Tripoli said it has been quiet at his location (Al Fatah Towers) in the northwest portion of the city. Tajoura is more than 10 miles southeast, where the nuclear research center is located.

  3. Gustopher says:

    I think Gadaffi has crossed a line where he doesn’t get to leave alive. I suspect either a show trial for his corpse, or playing soccer with his head. Or both.

    The only question is whether we should do something to hasten this — I don’t know what the consequences of direct involvement would be, and whether this is just going to end in a horrible bloody mess and then a virulently anti-american government one way or the other.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Don’t expect the UNSC to approve a resolution. Of the permanent members I expect that at least two and possibly three would vote against. If the UNSC can intervene in internal matters however inhuman in Tripoli, why not in Tien An Men Square where probably an order of magnitude more people were killed? Or in Grozny where the casualties were many orders of magnitude higher?

  5. Any chance any of Libya’s neighbors get a little frisky and decide to move in? That would be my concern right now. Say, where are those Iranian warships about now?

  6. michael reynolds says:

    To act without the UN we’d need some kind of additional precipitating event. And emergency.

    For example if we learned he was moving his gas weapons toward the cities. Or if he began killing western nationals. Then we, and perhaps the French, maybe the Brits, and best of all the Turks if they’d go along, could act. In fact probably should act.

    Unfortunately no one trusts our intel after Powell’s unfortunate appearance preceding Iraq. On the other hand, who is going to speak up for Gaddafi?

  7. Davebo says:

    As someone who was actually in the Gulf of Sidra in 1986 I’d say this will work out in the end.

    As someone who has read and commented on Doug’s posts in the past I’m just a troll.

    But imagine if the UNSC debated a human rights issue in North America? We are quick to demand action elsewhere but we tend to have kniptshion fits when anyone points the lens at us.

    Whatever is happening in the middle east today is a local phenomenon. If we’re smart, we’ll keep it that way. At least if one wants to honestly talk about individual liberties.

  8. Walt says:

    “But imagine if the UNSC debated a human rights issue in North America? We are quick to demand action elsewhere but we tend to have kniptshion fits when anyone points the lens at us.” Yeah, things are really bad here and in the West generally. That’s why, I suppose, so many Muslims, in times like these, try to come here.

  9. steve says:

    “For example if we learned he was moving his gas weapons toward the cities.”

    That was not enough in 1988.

    “Again and again helicopters flew over Kurdish settlements throughout northern Iraq releasing clouds of lethal gases and leaving bodies piled in the streets.

    Then on March 16, 1988 the Iraqis flew over the Kurdish town of Halabja. Within a hour, over 5,000 innocent men, women and children died on the streets.

    Many tried to hide in basements, unaware that they would provide no protection against a chemical attack. Tens of thousands of others fled into nearby mountain caves where the deadly fumes took their lives days later.

    But this time, television cameras were there to document the tragedy. Images of bodies piled in the streets of Halabja were broadcast around the world.

    It’s estimated that as many as 30,000 Kurds lost their lives to Saddam’s chemical weapons.”


  10. michael reynolds says:

    Halabja, Srebrenica, Rwanda. The list goes on.

    I would certainly not be in favor of invading Libya, god forbid. But if we happened to be in position to send a cruise missile through Gaddafi’s window, or to have a SEAL team tie him up and deliver him to the provisional government, I would not mind it one bit.

  11. Ben Wolf says:

    This is literally in the European Union’s back yard. Let them take the lead if they feel motivated to do something. We can offer them logistical support as our capabilities in that area are second to none, but no more.

    Surely the last decade of military adventurism has taught us the limits of our military power.

  12. Have A Nice G.A. says:

    Like Harry says, this nut is no head of state. Just another terrorist who took control of a country….

    I would rather not risk a SEAL team…… smart missle his sorry ***, let one of the military commanders that renounced him push the buttons if you don’t want to feel bad about it.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    The EU doesn’t pull triggers. The Brits and the French do but the Germans kind of gave that up. For excellent reason.

    I think it would be a NATO thing. And if — this is way into speculation — someone drops the hammer it would actually be great if Turkey was in on it.

  14. Pug says:

    This seems to be a situation the Libyans are going to have to work out for themselves. And it appears they are doing just that.

    The lunatic will be gone soon, but he will have done a lot of damage on the way out.