With news of indiscriminate firing on protesters and even fighter jets being used on areas of Tripoli – denied by the regime on state TV – Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations joined growing international calls for Gaddafi to go now, accusing him of genocide and saying he should stand trial for war crimes.
Ibrahim Dabbashi has told reporters at the UN in New York that after 42 years, time’s up for Colonel Gaddafif, and if he doesn’t leave, the Libyan people will get rid of him anyway, AAP reported.
He was then joined by Libyan diplomats to the US.
Ali Ojli, Libyan Ambassador to the US told Al Jazeera he could not condone the ‘massacre.’
Deputy ambassador to the US Ibrahim Dabbashi told CNN Gaddafi has “declared war” on the Libyan people and is committing “genocide”, AFP reported.
In an interview with BBC World, Dabbashi added: “I think it is the end of Colonel Gaddafi, it is a matter of days, whether he steps down or the Libyan people will get rid of him anyway.
Libya’s justice minister, Mustapha Abdeljalil, resigned in objection to “the excessive use of force” against demonstrators, the Quryna newspaper website reported.
In Cairo, Libya’s Arab League envoy said he too had stepped down to “join the revolution.” Tripoli’s ambassador to Delhi also quit, as did a diplomat in Beijing, Al-Jazeera television reported.
Reports also emerged of Libyan troops and African ‘mercenaries’ firing live rounds on protesters, as well as fighter jets being used to attack areas of Tripoli. Gaddafi’s son appeared on State TV to discredit these reports, saying only out-of-town arms depots had been attacked.
Two Libyan fighter pilots – both colonels – flew their single-seater Mirage F1 jets to Malta and said they had defected after being ordered to attack protesters in Benghazi, Maltese military and official sources said.
Malta is the closest European state to Libya, just 340 kilometres north of its coastline.
Italy put all military air bases on maximum alert after the fighters landed, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he was alarmed” by clashes in the former Italian colony.
Reuters reported claims from the Egytpian army that Libyan guards had left the border.
Gaddafi whereabouts unknown
Protesters overran several Libyan cities and Tripoli was being rocked by violence some residents said was a “massacre”, as the pillars of Muammar Gaddafi’s, hardline four-decade rule begins to crumble. Reports said around 150 people had been killed on Monday alone.
A suggestion in Brussels by British Foreign Secretary William Hague that Gaddafi may have left the country for Venezuela was swiftly denied by Caracas, home to the embattled Libyan leader’s firebrand ally President Hugo Chavez.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro spoke to his Libyan counterpart Mussa Kussa on Monday, who told him Gaddafi was “in Tripoli, exercising his powers of state and confronting the situation in the country,” the foreign ministry in Caracas said in a statement.
The uprising spread to the Libyan capital itself, with gunfire rattling Tripoli, where protesters attacked police stations and the offices of the state broadcaster, Gaddafi mouthpiece, and set government buildings ablaze.
Residents of two districts in Tripoli said in Cairo by telephone there had been “a massacre.”
“What happened today in Tajura was a massacre,” one said. “Armed men were firing indiscriminately. There are even women among the dead.”
Another witness in Fashlum said helicopters had landed what he called African mercenaries who opened fire on anyone in the street, causing a large number of deaths.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Tripoli to stop the deadly crackdown, saying in a statement: “I am shocked by the indiscriminate use of violence against peaceful protesters in Libya.”
Celebrated and influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa on Monday that any Libyan soldier who can kill Gaddafi should do so “to rid Libya of him,” he told Al-Jazeera.
Benghazi, Libya’s second city and an opposition stronghold in the east, fell to anti-regime demonstrators after military units deserted, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) reported earlier.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon told Gaddafi in a phone call that the violence “must stop immediately” and called for a broad-based dialogue, a UN spokesman said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also condemned the “unacceptable use of force” and called for an “immediate halt” to the violence.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, on a surprise visit to Libya’s eastern neighbour Egypt, where long-time president Hosni Mubarak was swept out on February 11 by a tide of people power, also slammed the violence.
“The violence, the brutality, that has got to stop, that is completely unacceptable,” he told Britain’s ITV news.
The 27-nation European Union urged all sides to show restraint.
US President Barack Obama was “considering all appropriate actions” as Washington ordered all non-essential staff out of Libya and warned Americans to avoid travel to the north African country.
Libyan state television said security forces were battling “dens of terrorists” in a sweep that has killed a number of people, without specifying where or who was being targeted.
State television reported that Gaddafi son, Seif al-Islam, had set up a commission to probe “the sad events,” and that it would include “members of Libyan and foreign rights organisations.”
He had already appeared on television early Monday to warn of looming civil conflict.
“Libya is at a crossroads. If we do not agree today on reforms… rivers of blood will run through Libya,” he said.
“We will take up arms… we will fight to the last bullet. We will destroy seditious elements. If everybody is armed, it is civil war, we will kill each other… Libya is not Egypt, it is not Tunisia.”
IFHR head Souhayr Belhassen said protesters controlled Benghazi, Sirte, Tobruk in the east, as well as Misrata, Khoms, Tarhounah, Zenten, Al-Zawiya and Zouara, closer to the capital.
It said the protests had resulted in up to 400 deaths. Human Rights Watch earlier cited a death toll of 233.
Oil prices soared above $105 per barrel on the turmoil, and the Fitch agency downgraded Libya’s debt rating a notch from BBB+ to BBB. British and French energy giants BP and Total were also evacuating some staff from Libya, which holds Africa’s biggest oil reserves, as other European governments and firms also scrambled to evacuate their citizens.