Tag Archive: protesters


Clashes resume between Egyptian Christians, police

CAIRO (AP) — Security officials say clashes between Christian protesters and Egyptian security forces have resumed, with hundreds pelting the police with rocks outside a central Cairo hospital.

 

At least 24 people were killed when Christians, angered by a recent church attack, clashed Sunday night with Muslims and security forces outside the state television building in central Cairo.

 

The officials say Monday’s clashes took place outside a Cairo hospital where bodies of Christian victims were kept.

 

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, had no word on casualties.

 

The latest violence comes hours before funeral services for the victims were to be held at the Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo.

 

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

 

CAIRO (AP) — Deadly clashes between angry Christians, Muslims and security forces have dealt a serious setback to Egypt’s transition to civilian rule, the country’s prime minister said Monday, hours after 24 people were killed in the worst violence since the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

 

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said the violence, which also left 272 wounded, was part of a “dirty conspiracy” and called on Egyptians to unite in the face of what he called meddling by foreign and domestic hands in their nation’s affairs.

 

“These events have taken us back several steps,” Sharaf said in a televised address. “Instead of moving forward to build a modern state on democratic principles, we are back to seeking stability and searching for hidden hands — domestic and foreign — that meddle with the country’s security and safety.”

 

A military council led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, defense minister of 20 years under the former regime, took over after an 18-day popular uprising forced Mubarak to step down. The military initially pledged to hand back power to a civilian administration in six months, but that deadline has gone by, with parliamentary elections now scheduled to start in late November. According to a timetable floated by the generals, presidential elections could be held late next year.

 

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people, blame the country’s ruling military council for being too lenient on those behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks since Mubarak’s ouster. As Egypt undergoes a chaotic power transition and security vacuum in the wake of the uprising, the Coptic Christian minority is particularly worried about the show of force by ultraconservative Islamists.

 

Sunday’s violence will likely prompt the military to further tighten its grip on power. Already, it said it had no intention to lift the widely hated emergency laws in place since Mubarak first took office in 1981. Tension also has been growing between the military and the youth groups that engineered the uprising, with activists blaming the generals for mishandling the transition period, human rights violations and driving a wedge between them and ordinary Egyptians.

 

The European Union condemned the violence, with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton saying it was for Egypt “to protect your people, whoever they are, wherever they come from or whatever belief or faith they have.”

 

Egypt’s official news agency, meanwhile, reported that dozens of “instigators of chaos” have been arrested following Sunday’s violence, sparked by a recent attack on a church in southern Egypt.

 

The MENA news agency did not say whether those arrested were Christians or Muslims, but security officials said most of the 24 killed were Christians and that they may have included one or two Muslims. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

 

Egypt’s state television said authorities on Monday stepped up security at vital installations in anticipation of renewed unrest, deploying additional troops outside parliament and the Cabinet. Riot police were also stationed outside the Coptic hospital where most of the victims’ bodies are kept. Funeral services are due in the afternoon at the main Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.

 

The rioting in downtown Cairo had lasted until late into the night, bringing out more than 1,000 security forces and armored vehicles to defend the Nile-side state television building where the trouble began.

 

The clashes spread from outside the TV building to nearby Tahrir Square, drawing thousands of people to the vast plaza that served as the epicenter of the protests that ousted Mubarak. On Sunday night, they battled each other with rocks and firebombs, some tearing up pavement for ammunition and others collecting stones in boxes.

 

The clashes did not appear to be exclusively sectarian.

 

State TV, which has increasingly become loyal to the military, appealed on “honorable” Egyptians to protect the army against attacks as news spread of clashes between the Christian protesters and the troops outside the TV building. Soon afterward, bands of young men armed with sticks, rocks, swords and firebombs began to roam central Cairo, attacking Christians. Troops and riot police did not intervene to stop the attacks on Christians.

 

Throughout the night, the station cast the Christian protesters as a violent mob attacking the army and public property. At one point, Information Minister Osama Heikal went on the air to deny that the station’s coverage had a sectarian slant, but acknowledged that its presenters acted “emotionally.”

 

At one point, an armored army van sped into the crowd, striking several protesters and throwing some into the air. Protesters retaliated by setting fire to military vehicles, a bus and private cars, sending flames rising into the night sky.

 

The Christian protesters said their demonstration began as a peaceful attempt to sit in at the TV building. Then, the protesters said, they came under attack by thugs in plainclothes who rained stones down on them and fired pellets.

 

“The protest was peaceful. We wanted to hold a sit-in, as usual,” said Essam Khalili, a protester wearing a white shirt with a cross on it. “Thugs attacked us and a military vehicle jumped over a sidewalk and ran over at least 10 people. I saw them.”

 

Khalili said protesters set fire to army vehicles when they saw them hitting the protesters.

 

Ahmed Yahia, a Muslim resident who lives near the TV building, said he saw the military vehicle plow into protesters. “I saw a man’s head split into two halves and a second body flattened when the armored vehicle ran over it. When some Muslims saw the blood they joined the Christians against the army,” he said.

 

Television footage showed the military vehicle slamming into the crowd. Coptic protesters were shown attacking a soldier, while a priest tried to protect him.

 

In the past weeks, riots have broken out at two churches in southern Egypt, prompted by Muslim crowds angry over church construction. One riot broke out near the city of Aswan, even after church officials agreed to a demand by ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis that a cross and bells be removed from the building.

 

Aswan’s governor, Gen. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, further raised tensions by suggesting to the media that the church construction was illegal.

 

Protesters said the Copts are demanding the ouster of the governor, reconstruction of the church, compensation for people whose houses were set on fire and prosecution of those behind the riots and attacks on the church.

http://news.yahoo.com/clashes-resume-between-egyptian-christians-police-101822266.html

 

 

Protesters defy efforts to clear Wisconsin Capitol

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110228/ap_on_re_us/us_wisconsin_budget_unions

By DINESH RAMDE and DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press Dinesh Ramde And David A. Lieb, Associated Press 8 mins ago

MADISON, Wis. – Protesters who spent the night in Wisconsin’s Capitol vowed Monday to remain as long as necessary to speak out against Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to end most collective bargaining rights and demonstrate against his budget.

Walker planned to deliver his two-year budget plan in the state Assembly chamber on Tuesday afternoon. He has said that plan will help make clear why the collective bargaining concessions he is seeking from public employees are necessary to help plug a $3.6 billion shortfall.

Walker has said his budget will include about a $1 billion cut in state aids to schools and local governments. He is also expected to propose dramatic changes to how the University of Wisconsin is organized, make cuts to Medicaid and possibly increase fees to help raise money.

Police said Monday that cleaning of the Capitol continued despite the continued presence of the protesters, as did security preparations for Walker’s budget speech.

Police decided not to forcibly remove protesters after thousands ignored a 4 p.m. Sunday deadline to leave so the normally immaculate building could get a thorough cleaning. Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said no demonstrators will be arrested as long as they continue to obey the law.

“People here have acted lawfully and responsibly,” Tubbs said. “There’s no reason to consider arrests.”

The floors where several hundred protesters had slept previous nights looked unusually bare late Sunday as the smaller crowd of people walked around in socks, lounged on blankets and curled up under jackets.

But organizers said they were confident that demonstrators who were persuaded to leave Sunday would return to continue fighting Walker’s efforts to strip nearly all public workers from their collective bargaining rights except over wages. Protesters have staged a sit-in that began Feb. 15 and hit its peak Saturday, when more than 70,000 people descended on the Capitol grounds for a rally.

Click image to see photos of the Wisconsin protest

By DINESH RAMDE and DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press Dinesh Ramde And David A. Lieb, Associated Press 8 mins ago

MADISON, Wis. – Protesters who spent the night in Wisconsin’s Capitol vowed Monday to remain as long as necessary to speak out against Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to end most collective bargaining rights and demonstrate against his budget.

Walker planned to deliver his two-year budget plan in the state Assembly chamber on Tuesday afternoon. He has said that plan will help make clear why the collective bargaining concessions he is seeking from public employees are necessary to help plug a $3.6 billion shortfall.

Walker has said his budget will include about a $1 billion cut in state aids to schools and local governments. He is also expected to propose dramatic changes to how the University of Wisconsin is organized, make cuts to Medicaid and possibly increase fees to help raise money.

Police said Monday that cleaning of the Capitol continued despite the continued presence of the protesters, as did security preparations for Walker’s budget speech.

Police decided not to forcibly remove protesters after thousands ignored a 4 p.m. Sunday deadline to leave so the normally immaculate building could get a thorough cleaning. Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said no demonstrators will be arrested as long as they continue to obey the law.

“People here have acted lawfully and responsibly,” Tubbs said. “There’s no reason to consider arrests.”

The floors where several hundred protesters had slept previous nights looked unusually bare late Sunday as the smaller crowd of people walked around in socks, lounged on blankets and curled up under jackets.

But organizers said they were confident that demonstrators who were persuaded to leave Sunday would return to continue fighting Walker’s efforts to strip nearly all public workers from their collective bargaining rights except over wages. Protesters have staged a sit-in that began Feb. 15 and hit its peak Saturday, when more than 70,000 people descended on the Capitol grounds for a rally.

Click image to see photos of the Wisconsin protest

Walker argues that his measure would help close a projected $3.6 billion deficit in the 2011-13 budget. He believes that freeing local governments from having to collectively bargain with public employee unions would give them the flexibility needed to deal with forthcoming budget cuts.

Labor leaders and Democratic lawmakers say the bill is intended to undermine the unions and weaken a key base of Democratic Party voters.

Paul Golueke, 24, a social worker from Milwaukee, said he planned to stay at the Capitol until at least Tuesday’s budget address.

“If the budget contains provisions like in this budget-repair bill, I’ll stay here as long as it takes,” Golueke said. “Scott Walker doesn’t understand our passion. The eyes of the nation, of the world, are on us and we can’t back down.”

The state agency that oversees the Capitol had asked demonstrators to leave by Sunday afternoon, saying the building was in dire need of a cleaning. But it was clear that the estimated 4,000 protesters had no intention of leaving voluntarily.

Tubbs, the police chief, said demonstrators who had occupied all three floors of the Capitol would have to relocate to the ground floor. He said anyone who left the building would not be allowed back in until the morning, although union officials were allowed to deliver food to the protesters during the night.

“It was a victory for peace. It was a victory for democracy,” said Kara Randall, 46, a massage therapist from Middleton who had already spent five nights at the Capitol.

Walker’s spokesman declined to comment late Sunday on the police decision to keep the Capitol open to demonstrators. In an interview earlier in the day on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Walker said the lengthy protests haven’t eroded his resolve to push forward with his legislative agenda.

“Year after year, governors and legislators before us have kicked the can down the road,” Walker said. “We can’t do that. We’re broke. It’s about time someone stood up and told the truth in our state and said here’s our problem, here’s the solution and let’s do this.”

Walker’s proposal stalled in the state Senate when its 14 Democrats fled the state for Illinois, leaving the legislative body one vote short of a quorum. The Democratic senators have vowed to stay away from Wisconsin for as long as it takes. Democrats in Indiana have boycotted their statehouse for the past week to prevent a vote on Republican-backed proposals to introduce a similar bill.

Sen. Jim Holperin, one of the 14 from Wisconsin, said Monday morning that the Democrats remain united in their intention to stay away until a compromise can be found.

“I just believe there is some middle ground here,” Holperin said.

One of the Democrats, Sen. Lena Taylor, sent a tweet to support the protesters that read: “Thank you for exercising your 1st amend right – I’m glad my actions give you opportunity to stand/sit/express yourself!”

___

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this story.

Clampdown in Libyan capital as protests close in

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110223/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By PAUL SCHEMM and MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Paul Schemm And Maggie Michael, Associated Press 1 hr 4 mins ago

TOBRUK, Libya – Militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi clamped down in Tripoli, but cracks in his regime spread elsewhere across the nation, as the protest-fueled rebellion controlling much of eastern Libya claimed new gains closer to the capital. Two pilots let their warplane crash in the desert, parachuting to safety, rather than bomb an opposition-held city.

The opposition said it had taken over Misrata, which would be the largest city in the western half in the country to fall into its hands. Clashes broke out over the past two days in the town of Sabratha, west of the capital, where the army and militiamen were trying to put down protesters who overwhelmed security headquarters and government buildings, a news website close to the government reported.

Two air force pilots jumped from parachutes from their Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet and let it crash, rather than carry out orders to bomb opposition-held Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, the website Quryna reported, citing an unidentified officer in the air force control room.

One of the pilots — identified by the report as Ali Omar Gadhafi — was from Gadhafi’s tribe, the Gadhadhfa, said Farag al-Maghrabi, a local resident who saw the pilots and the wreckage of the jet, which crashed in a deserted area outside the key oil port of Breqa.

International outrage mounted after Gadhafi on Tuesday went on state TV and in a fist-pounding speech called on his supporters to take to the streets to fight protesters. Gadhafi’s retaliation has already been the harshest in the Arab world to the wave of anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said estimates of some 1,000 people killed in the violence in Libya were “credible,” although he stressed information about casualties was incomplete. The New York-based Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at nearly 300, according to a partial count.

Gadhafi’s speech appeared to have brought out a heavy force of supporters and militiamen that largely prevented major protests in the capital Tuesday night or Wednesday. Through the night, gunfire was heard, said one woman who lives near downtown.

“Mercenaries are everywhere with weapons. You can’t open a window or door. Snipers hunt people,” she said. “We are under siege, at the mercy of a man who is not a Muslim.”

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

During the day Wednesday, more gunfire was heard near Gadhafi’s residence, but in many parts of the city of 2 million residents were venturing out to stores, some residents said. The government sent out text messages urging people to go back to their jobs, aiming to show that life was returning to normal. The residents spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

But Libya’s upheaval, just over a week old, has shattered the hold of Gadhafi’s regime across much of the country. Protesters claim to hold towns and cities along nearly the entire eastern half of the 1,000-mile Mediterranean coastline, from the Egyptian border. In parts, they have set up their own jury-rigged self-administrations.

At the Egyptian border, guards had fled, and local tribal elders have formed local committees to take their place. “Welcome to the new Libya,” a graffiti spray-painted at the crossing proclaimed. Fawzy Ignashy, a former soldier, now in civilian clothes at the border, said that early in the protests, some commanders ordered troops to fire on protesters, but then tribal leaders stepped in and ordered them to stop.

“They did because they were from here. So the officers fled,” he said.

A defense committee of local residents was even guarding one of Gadhafi’s once highly secretive anti-aircraft missile bases outside the city of Tobruk. “This is the first time I’ve seen missiles like these up close,” admitted Abdelsalam al-Gedani, one of the guards, dressed in an overcoat and carrying a Kalashnikov automatic rifle.

Protesters have claimed control all the way to the city of Ajdabiya, about 480 miles (800 kilometers) east of Tripoli, encroaching on the key oil fields around the Gulf of Sidra.

That has left Gadhafi’s power centered around Tripoli, in the far west and parts of the country’s center. But that appeared to be weakening in parts.

Protesters in Misrata were claiming victory after several days of fighting with Gadhafi loyalists in the city, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tripoli.

Residents were honking horns in celebration and raising the pre-Gadhafi flags of the Libyan monarchy, said Faraj al-Misrati, a local doctor. He said six people had been killed and 200 wounded in clashes that began Feb. 18 and eventually drove out pro-Gadhafi militiamen.

Residents had formed committees to clean the streets, protect the city and treat the injured, he said. “The solidarity among the people here is amazing, even the disabled are helping out.”

An audio statement posted on the Internet was reportedly from armed forces officers in Misrata proclaiming “our total support” for the protesters.

New videos posted by Libya’s opposition on Facebook also showed scores of anti-government protesters raising the flag from the pre-Gadhafi monarchy on a building in Zawiya, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli. Another showed protesters lining up cement blocks and setting tires ablaze to fortify positions on a square inside the capital.

The footage couldn’t be independently confirmed.

Further west, armed forces deployed in Sabratha, a town famed for nearby ancient Roman ruins, in a bid to regain control after protesters burned government buildings and police stations, the Quryna news website reported. It said clashes had erupted between soldiers and residents in the past nights and that residents were also reporting an influx of pro-Gadhafi militias that have led heaviest crackdown on protesters.

The opposition also claimed control in Zwara, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the Tunisian border in the west, after local army units sided with the protesters and police fled.

“The situation here is very secure, the people here have organized security committees, and there are people who have joined us from the army,” said a 25-year-old unemployed university graduate in Zwara. “This man (Gadhafi) has reached the point that he’s saying he will bring armies from African (to fight protesters). That means he is isolated,” he said.

The division of the country — and defection of some army units to the protesters — raises the possibility the opposition could try an assault on the capital. On the Internet, there were calls by protesters for all policemen, armed forces and youth to march to Tripoli on Friday.

In his speech Tuesday night, Gadhafi defiantly vowed to fight to his “last drop of blood” and roared at supporters to strike back against Libyan protesters to defend his embattled regime.

“You men and women who love Gadhafi … get out of your homes and fill the streets,” Gadhafi said. “Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs.”

Gadhafi appears to have lost the support of several tribes and his own diplomats, including Libya’s ambassador in Washington, Ali Adjali, and deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi.

The Libyan Embassy in Austria also condemned the use of “excessive violence against peaceful demonstrators” and said in a statement Wednesday that it was representing the Libyan people.

International alarm has risen over the crisis, which sent oil prices soaring to the highest level in more than two years on Tuesday and sparked a scramble by European and other countries to get their citizens out of the North African nation. The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting that ended with a statement condemning the crackdown, expressing “grave concern” and calling for an “immediate end to the violence” and steps to address the legitimate demands of the Libyan people.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also pressed Wednesday for European Union sanctions against Libya’s regime because of its violent crackdown on protesters, and raised the possibility of cutting all economic and business ties between the EU and the North African nation.

“The continuing brutal and bloody repression against the Libyan civilian population is revolting,” Sarkozy said in a statement. “The international community cannot remain a spectator to these massive violations of human rights.”

Italian news reports have said witnesses and hospital sources in Libya are estimating there are 1,000 dead in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, alone.

“We have no complete information about the number of people who have died,” Frattini said in a speech to a Catholic organization in Rome ahead of a briefing in Parliament on Libya. “We believe that the estimates of about 1,000 are credible.”

Libya is the biggest supplier of oil to Italy, which has extensive energy, construction and other business interests in the north African country and decades of strong ties.

Frattini said the Italian government is asking that the “horrible bloodshed” cease immediately.

___

Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Ben Hubbard in Cairo, Frances D’Emilio in Rome and Angela Doland in Paris contributed to this report.

Egypt freezes Mubarak’s assets

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110221/ap_on_bi_ge/ml_egypt

By MAGGIE MICHAEL and SALAH NASRAWI, Associated Press Maggie Michael And Salah Nasrawi, Associated Press 21 mins ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s top prosecutor requested on Monday the freezing of the foreign assets of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his family, announced state TV.

Security officials said that the prosecutor general requested the Foreign Ministry to ask other nations to freeze any assets of Mubarak and his family abroad. The president’s local assets were frozen soon after he stepped down, they added.

The freeze applies to Mubarak, his wife, his two sons and two daughters-in-law, they say. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to the press.

A day earlier, official media quoted Mubarak’s legal representative as saying the former president had submitted to authorities a declaration of his wealth and that he had no assets abroad. The former president is believed to currently be residing in his estate at the distant Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Egypt has so far asked for asset freezes for one top Egyptian businessman and former ruling party official, as well as four former Cabinet ministers and detained them pending investigations.

The Mubarak’s family’s wealth — speculation has put it at anywhere from $1 billion to $70 billion — has come under growing scrutiny since Mubarak’s Feb. 11 ouster opened the floodgates to three decades of pent-up anger at the regime.

Watchdog groups allege that under Mubarak, top officials and tycoons were given preferential treatment in land contracts, allowed to buy state industries at a fraction of their value during Egypt’s privatization process launched in the early 1990s, and got other perks that enabled them to increase their wealth exponentially. The perks came at a price — and the Mubaraks were major beneficiaries, the activists say.

The most prominent symbol of their presumed fortune that has surfaced was a town house in London’s exclusive Knightsbridge district, which is listed to Gamal Mubarak and where he was said to have lived while working as an investment banker in the early 1990s.

The town house has become a focal point for many in Egypt as foreign governments begin to either enact, or consider imposing freezes on their assets.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110221/ap_on_re_af/af_libya_protests

By MAGGIE MICHAEL and HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Maggie Michael And Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press 47 mins ago

CAIRO – Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi on Monday, claiming control of the country’s second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli’s main square for the first time. Moammar Gadhafi’s son vowed that his father and security forces would fight “until the last bullet.”

Even as Seif al-Islam Gadhafi spoke on state TV Sunday night, clashes were raging in and around Tripoli’s central Green Square, lasting until dawn Monday, witnesses said. They reported snipers opening fire on crowds trying to seize the square, and Gadhafi supporters speeding through in vehicles, shooting and running over protesters. Before dawn, protesters took over the offices of two of the multiple state-run satellite news channels, witnesses said.

During the day Monday, a fire was raging at the People’s Hall, the main hall for government gatherings where the country’s equivalent of a parliament holds its sessions several times a year. The pro-government news web site Qureyna said flames were seen leaping from the building, and that the headquarters of the Olympics Committee was also on fire.

Protesters were calling for a new protest at sunset Monday in Green Square, setting up the likelihood of new clashes. Already, armed members of pro-government organizations called “Revolutionary Committees” were circulating in the streets hunting for protesters in Tripoli’s old city, said one protester, named Fathi.

The city on Monday was shut down, with schools, government offices and most shops closed except a few bakeries serving residents hunkered down in their houses, said a Tripoli lawyer, Rehab, who like Fathi spoke on condition she be identified only by her first name.

The protests and violence were the heaviest yet in the capital of 2 million people, a sign of how unrest was spreading after six days of demonstrations in eastern cities demanding the end of the elder Gadhafi’s rule.

Gadhafi’s regime has unleashed the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country against the wave of protests sweeping the region, which toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. More than 200 have been killed in Libya, according to medical officials, human rights groups and exiled dissidents.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting neighboring Egypt, called the Libyan government’s crackdown “appalling.”

“We can see what is happening in Libya which is completely appalling and unacceptable as the regime is using the most vicious forms of repression against people who want to see that country — which is one of the most closed and one of the most autocratic — make progress. The response they have shown has been quite appalling,” he told reporters in Cairo.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi warned of civil war in Libya if protests continue, a theme continued Monday on Libyan state TV, where a pro-regime commentator spoke of chaos and “rivers of blood” turning Libya into “another Somalia” if security is not restored.

Fragmentation is a real danger in Libya, a country of deep tribal divisions and a historic rivalry between Tripoli and Benghazi. The Arab world’s longest ruling leader in power for nearly 42 years, Moammar Gadhafi has held an unquestioned grip over the highly decentralized system of government he created, called the “Jamahiriya,” or “rule by masses.”

Libya’s former ambassador to the Arab League in Cairo, Abdel-Moneim al-Houni, who a day earlier resigned from his post to side with protesters, issued a statement demanding Gadhafi “be put on trial along with his aides, security and military commanders over the mass killings in Libya.”

“Gadhafi’s regime is now in the trash of history because he betrayed his nation and his people,” al-Houni said.

The spiraling turmoil in Libya, an OPEC country that is a significant oil supplier to Europe, was raising international alarm. Oil prices jumped $1.67 to nearly $88 a barrel Monday amid investor concern.

Two leading oil companies, Statoil and BP, said they were pulling some employees out of Libya or preparing to do so. Portugal sent plane to pick up its citizens and other EU nationals and Turkey sent two ferries to pick up construction workers stranded in the unrest-hit country. EU foreign ministers were discussing on Monday the possible evacuation of European citizens. Mobs attacked South Korean, Turkish and Serbian construction workers at various sites around the country, officials from each country said.

The Internet has been largely shut down in Libya, residents can no longer make international calls from land lines and journalists cannot work freely, but eyewitness reports trickling out of the country suggested that protesters were fighting back more forcefully. Most witnesses and residents spoke on condition they be indentified by first name only or not at all, out of fear of retaliation.

In Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, protesters were in control of the streets Monday and took over the main security headquarters, known as the Katiba, after bloody clashes Sunday that killed at least 60 people, according to a doctor at the main hospital.

Cars honked their horns in celebration and protesters in the streets chanted “Long live Libya.” Protesters took down the Libyan flag from above Benghazi’s main courthouse and raised the flag of the country’s old monarchy, which was toppled in 1969 by the military coup that brought Moammar Gadhafi to power, according to witnesses and video footage posted on the Internet.

Benghazi’s airport was closed, according to an airport official in Cairo. A Turkish Airlines flight trying to land in Benghazi to evacuate Turkish citizens Monday was turned away, told by ground control to circle over the airport then to return to Istanbul.

There were fears of chaos as young men — including regime supporters — seized weapons from the Katiba and other captured security buildings. “The youths now have arms and that’s worrying,” said Iman, a doctor at the main hospital. “We are appealing to the wise men of every neighborhood to rein in the youths.”

Youth volunteers were directing traffic and guarding homes and public facilities, said Najla, a lawyer and university lecturer in Benghazi. She and other residents said police had disappeared from the streets.

Benghazi has seen a cycle of bloody clashes over the past week, as security forces kill protesters, followed by funerals that turn into new protests, sparking new bloody shootings. After funerals Sunday, protesters fanned out, burning government buildings and police stations and besieging the Katiba.

Security forces battled back, at times using heavy-caliber machine guns and anti-aircraft guns, according to residents. One witness said she saw bodies torn apart and that makeshift clinics were set up in the streets to treat the wounded. Ahmed Hassan, a doctor at the main Al-Jalaa hospital, said funerals were expected Monday for 20 of those killed the day before, but that families of 40 others were still trying to identify their loved ones because their bodies were too damaged.

In some cases, army units reportedly sided with protesters against security forces and pro-Gadhafi militias. Mohamed Abdul-Rahman, a 42-year-old Benghazi merchant, said he saw an army battalion chasing militiamen from a security compound.

After seizing the Katiba, protesters found the bodies of 13 uniformed security officers inside who had been handcuffed and shot in the head, then set on fire, said Hassan, the doctor. He said protesters believed the 13 had been executed by fellow security forces for refusing to attack protesters.

Protest leaders and army units that sided with them were working to keep order in the streets Monday, directing traffic and guarding homes and official buildings, several residents said.

On Sunday night, Gadhafi’s son Seif el-Islam took to state TV, trying to take a tough line in a rambling and sometimes confused speech of nearly 40 minutes.

“We are not Tunisia and Egypt,” he said. “Moammar Gadhafi, our leader, is leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are with him.”

“The armed forces are with him. Tens of thousands are heading here to be with him. We will fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet,” he said.

He warned the protesters that they risked igniting a civil war in which Libya’s oil wealth “will be burned.” He also promised “historic” reforms in Libya if protests stop.

Seif has often been put forward as the regime’s face of reform. Several of the elder Gadhafi’s sons have powerful positions in the regime and in past years have competed for influence. Seif’s younger brother Mutassim is the national security adviser, with a strong role in the military and security forces, and another brother Khamis heads the army’s 32nd Brigade, which according to U.S. diplomats is the best trained and best equipped force in the military.

Even as Seif spoke, major clashes had broken out for the first time in Tripoli.

Sunday afternoon, protesters from various parts of the city began to stream toward central Green Square, chanting “God is great,” said one 28-year-old man who was among the marchers.

In the square, they found groups of Gadhafi supporters, but the larger number of protesters appeared to be taking over the square and surrounding streets, he and two other witnesses said. That was when the backlash began, with snipers firing down from rooftops and militiamen attacking the crowds, shooting and chasing people down side streets. they said.

Gadhafi supporters in pickup trucks and cars raced through the suqare, shooting automatic weapons. “They were driving like mad men searching for someone to kill. … It was total chaos, shooting and shouting,” said the 28-year-old.

The witnesses reported seeing casualties, but the number could not be confirmed. One witness, named Fathi, said he saw at least two he believed were dead and many more wounded.

After midnight, protesters took over the main Tripoli offices of two state-run satellite stations, Al-Jamahiriya-1 and Al-Shebabiya, one witness said.

Military police officers scuffle with protesters as they try to clear Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 14. Egypt’s military rulers dissolved parliament Sunday, suspending the constitution and promising elections in moves cautiously welcomed by pro-democracy protesters.

Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo

 

Cairo

A coalition of activists, Internet organizers, and opposition political groups that formed the backbone of the Egyptian revolution joined the country’s new military rulers today for a “getting to know you meeting.” They promised to hold the new regime’s feet to the fire on political reform.

“The military is more or less trying to meet with all of the groups involved at this point,” says Ahmed Naguib, a member of the board of the Coalition of the Youth of the Jan. 25 Revolution. “The meeting was just to tell them that a lot of demands have not been met yet. That’s why we’re calling for a million-man march on Friday, to remind them that sovereignty is back with the people for good.”

Egypt is in a period of incredible political ferment, with the military promising to usher in the substantive democratic reform that hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanded on the streets of Cairo and beyond.

But the military, an integral part of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, faces skepticism from some in Mr. Naguib’s umbrella group – as well as a potential challenge from laborers who have launched a series of strikes to capitalize on the revolution’s momentum.

IN PICTURES: Exclusive Monitor photos of Egypt’s turmoil

A few hours after the meeting, the junta issued a communiqué with ominous hints for how ongoing protests will be dealt with. The military said further protests will harm national security and urged protests – particularly labor strikes – to stop.
While it stopped short of outright banning demonstrations, the use of the language of national security – the statement also warned of the chance that “irresponsible groups” will take advantage of further protests to harm Egypt – strongly implied that it won’t stand aside indefinitely.

The military’s promises

The military pushed former President Hosni Mubarak from power on Friday and took charge for what they say is the good of the nation.

On Sunday, they dissolved both houses of parliament, suspended the Constitution, and promised sweeping political reforms to allow for fair elections within six months. At that point, the military junta led by Gen. Mohammed Tantawi (ret.) has promised, they will return to barracks.

Mr. Naguib says his umbrella group for young democracy activists, which includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and young supporters of former United Nations nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei, told officers today that they intend to keep the military to its promises.

He says organizers are confident that they’ll be able to energize large protests at the end of the week, even as military police cleared away the last vestiges of the extraordinary pro-democracy encampment that took over Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square during the popular uprising that started on Jan. 25.

Is he right? The Egyptian military has been urging Egypt to get back to work and is seeking to project an air of normalcy. Many of the youth who mobilized at Tahrir have been inclined to trust the military, and average Egyptians are wary of a confrontation with the military after two weeks in which the Army stayed neutral and allowed Mubarak to be swept aside.

“At the start, a tactical choice was made by the protesters to put the military on a pedestal and try to push it in the direction of the people, and I think that’s been an effective strategy,” says Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brooking Institution’s Doha Center in Qatar. “But the relationship is going to get a lot harder. Before, the military was a third player. Now they are the regime.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0214/Egypt-revolution-Protesters-vow-to-keep-pressure-on-military

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