As loud explosions continued to rock the capital for the fourth night and flares from the firing of anti-aircraft guns lit the sky, the Libyan leader declared today, "We will not surrender."
Undaunted by four nights of missile and airstrikes on his military, Muammar Qaddafi’s forces pressed ahead with their assault on key towns of Misruta, Ajdabiya and Zintan as U.S. President warned that the Libyan ruler may try to “hunker down and wait it out“.
The relentless allied attacks may have grounded or destroyed his warplanes and forced his forces back from the doorsteps of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, but government troops held on to the city of Ajdabiya withstanding waves of attacks by opponents.
His tanks and heavy artillery laid a siege on the embattled Misruta, the sole city held by the rebels in western Libya, and heavy shelling by his forces left more than 50 people, including children, dead.
Intense fighting also raged for the town of Zintan where outgunned rebel forces were repeatedly thrown back by government troops.
As loud explosions continued to rock the capital for the fourth night and flares from the firing of anti—aircraft guns lit the sky, the Libyan leader declared today, “We will not surrender.”
“We will prefer to die like martyrs. We will defeat them by any means....We are ready for a fight, whether it is short or a long one.....We will emerge victorious at the end,” Qaddafi said in a live television broadcast, making his first public appearance since the allied strikes against his country.
“This is an attack by Fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history,” Qaddafi said in a speech made apparently from a compound hit by allied airstrikes on Sunday.
He concluded by saying, “I do not fear storms that sweeps the horizon, nor do I fear the planes that throw black destruction....My house is here in my tent....I am here. I am here.”
He urged all Islamic armies to join him.
Al Jazeera said that the siege by Qaddafi’s forces of Misruta had almost entered the fourth week and the situation in the city was turning grim with shortage of food, water and medicines.
The Arab channel said that a similar situation prevailed in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, where neither side appeared to be making any breakthrough.
BBC said that divisions were appearing among the rebels, with some pressing for pushing on to Tripoli, while others wanted to take Ajdabiya and consolidate their hold in the East, hoping Libyan in other cities will rise up and liberate themselves.
Report said that rebels were taking shelter in sand dunes to hide from the tank fire and were without heavy weapons, leadership, communications or even battle plans.
The allies, though subjecting Qaddafi’s military command and control centres to ceaseless bombardments, are reluctant to commit ground troops or even special forces to help and guide the rebels.
They have also not so far responded to calls for airstrikes by rebels to help them overrun Ajdabiya and push back the pressure on Misruta.
Western warplanes have flown more than 330 sorties over Libya and more than 162 Tomahawks cruise missiles have been fired in the UN mandated mission to protect Libyan people.
As Qaddafi’s forces stepped up their assaults, Mr. Obama warned that the Libyan ruler may still hang onto power despite suffering strikes.
But, he declared that a military approach was not the only way Washington can push for his ouster.
The embattled Libyan leader “may try to hunker down and wait it out, even in the face of a no—fly zone,” Mr. Obama told CNN.
“But keep in mind that we don’t just have military tools at our disposal in terms of accomplishing Qaddafi’s leaving,” he added.
On a day when two U.S. airmen bailed out over Libya and were rescued after the crash of their F—15 fighter jet, New York Times said Mr. Obama and leaders of France and Britain had stepped up efforts to work out an accord who would be the in—charge of military operation once the initial onslaught on Libya’s air defence system was complete.
The American President has made it clear that the U.S. would step back from its lead role in operation ‘Odyssey Dawn’ within days, but also admitted it was confronting the complexities of running a military campaign with a multilateral force cobbled together quickly and without a clear understanding among its members about their roles.
Mr. Obama expressed confidence that the coalition would resolve disagreements over the leadership role of NATO.
Defiant Qaddafi vows victory, says will die as “martyr”
Making his first public appearance since the launch of coalition air strikes on his forces, a defiant Qaddafi pledged victory and said he was ready to die as a “martyr” in Libya.
“In the short term, we’ll beat them, in the long term, we’ll beat them,” thundered Col. Qaddafi, who slammed the West, calling the attack an “unjust aggression“.
As Libya’s capital Tripoli came under attack by coalition forces for a fourth night, Col. Qaddafi (68), who has ruled the oil—rich north African nation for 41 years, said his fight will be an “historic battle” against them.
Libyan TV broadcast a live address by Col. Qaddafi shown standing on a balcony before supporters at his residential compound near Tripoli. It was Col. Qaddafi’s first public appearance in a week.
The state TV said the Libyan ruler was speaking from his Bab Al—Aziziya residential compound, where a three—storey building housing his command and control centre was flattened by a cruise missile on Sunday night.
Col. Qaddafi’s aggressive posturing came even as Mr. Obama ruled out any changes in the “Operation Odyssey Dawn” for Libya till Col. Qaddafi was in power or till the time he changed his approach towards his own people.
“As long as Qaddafi remains in power, unless he changes his approach and provides the Libyan people an opportunity to express themselves freely and there are significant reforms in the Libyan government, unless he is willing to step down, that there are still going to be potential threats towards the Libyan people,” Mr. Obama said.
As Libya was pounded from the air by the coalition, fighting between the rebels battling to overthrow Col. Qaddafi and his forces has continued on the ground. In the east, rebels have progressed around 100 km. south of Benghazi to Ajdabiyah following Sunday’s coalition assault on government tanks.
Clad in his trademark brown robes, Col. Qaddafi seethed with anger and banged the podium refusing to bow to growing calls within the country and abroad to step down.
“I shall remain here defiant,” said Col. Qaddafi, dubbing anti—government protesters as “rats and mercenaries” who deserved the death penalty.
Col. Qaddafi said he would call upon the people to “cleanse Libya house by house” unless protesters surrendered.
He also urged Libyans to take to the streets to show their loyalty. “All of you who love Muammar Qaddafi, go out on the streets, secure the streets, don’t be afraid of them ...
Chase them, arrest them, hand them over,” he said.