Gaddafi regime handing weapons to supporters

As unrest continues following a defiant and angry speech from Moamar Gaddafi, a resident of Libya says guns are being handed to anyone who supports the leader’s 41-year regime.

Abdul Basset, who lives in the capital Tripoli, has told ABC Radio’s PM there are very few people who still support Mr Gaddafi’s regime.

In his speech, Mr Gaddafi swore to crush a growing revolt in his country and referred to the gangs of protesters as cockroaches.

In the rambling address he said he was ready to die a martyr rather than lose his grip on Libya.

Mr Basset says shortly after Mr Gaddafi’s speech, pro-government supporters were handing out guns to anybody who supported the regime.

“They start giving guns to everybody who’s saying ‘I’m supporting him’,” Mr Basset said.

“I’ve seen the guns with people who [are] very young.

“There is lots of people now – they’re holding guns, they have no idea how to use even the guns.

“They’ve just got a Kalashnikov and they’re just shooting everywhere.”

He says the Libyan people are heading towards a defiant strike.

“There’s going to be a very big disaster now because… the people who don’t want him,” he said.

“We’re not going to work, not going to school, not going to do anything, we’re not going to leave the houses – because he said in his speech if you like me go out and go to the street, go to work, go to school, get a life like normal.

“We not going to do that.

“It’s going to be very difficult and it’s going to be lots of blood.”

According to the first official figures released by Mr Gaddafi’s regime, 300 people have been killed since the unrest broke out a week ago – 189 civilians and 111 soldiers.

Human Rights groups estimate the death toll is much higher.

Mr Gaddafi says he is yet to use force against protesters, but his word is disputed by reports of neighbourhoods littered with the bodies killed by pro-Gaddafi militiamen.

Most of the deaths have been recorded in Libya’s second city, Benghazi, where protesters overran police stations and security headquarters with the help of some army units last weekend.

The two main Benghazi tribes have also thrown their support behind the protesters and tribal fighters have taken to guarding oil fields and refineries.

Soldiers in Tobruk claim the entire eastern region of the country is now in the hands of the protesters.

There are also reports of fierce fighting in the north-western city of Sabratha.

High-profile defections

Libya’s interior minister has joined a number of high-level officials who have resigned from Mr Gadaffi’s government and made calls for the armed forces to join the uprising.

General Abdel Fatah Yunes announced his resignation in a video message recorded in Benghazi.

The former interior and security minister, who used to be one of Mr Gaddafi’s right-hand men, said he now supported the February 17 revolution and urged the army to support the protest movement and what he described as its legitimate demands.

A senior aide to a son of Mr Gaddafi also resigned in protest of the violence sweeping the country.

Youssef Sawani sent a text message to a Reuters correspondent announcing the resignation, saying he wanted to “express dismay against violence”.

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