21 February 2011
Libya protests: Col Gaddafi under mounting pressure
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime is under huge pressure after a night of protests in the Libyan capital Tripoli.
Several senior officials - including the justice minister - have reportedly quit their posts after security forces fired on the Tripoli protesters.
In a TV address, Col Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, conceded that protesters had taken over eastern cities of al-Bayda and Benghazi.
But he warned of civil war and vowed to "fight to the last bullet".
The BBC's Jon Leyne, in neighbouring Egypt, says Col Gaddafi has now lost the support of almost every section of society.
Reliable sources say Col Gaddafi has now left the capital, our correspondent adds.
'Hatred of Libya'
On Monday, state TV reported an operation had been mounted against the Tripoli protesters.
"Security forces have started to storm into the dens of terror and sabotage spurred by the hatred of Libya," Libyan TV reported.
Unconfirmed reports suggested soldiers were once again using live ammunition in the capital on Monday evening.
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BBC News, Cairo
The situation in Libya is becoming increasingly confused and chaotic. There are several reports that Col Gaddafi has now left Tripoli, possibly for his hometown of Sirt or his desert base of Sabha.
In Tripoli itself, elements of the security forces are still on the streets, though the violence seems to be increasingly random.
During the night, there were more brutal attacks on demonstrators who had gathered, after rumours spread that Col Gaddafi had fled the country.
Hour by hour, there are reports of more defections. Almost all major tribal leaders seem to have joined the opposition, as well as important religious leaders and several senior Libyan ambassadors.
The east of the country is already almost entirely out of the hands of the government. Col Gaddafi's hold on power is becoming weaker by the hour.
Security forces fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse protests on Sunday night.
Justice Minister Mustapha Abdul Jalil became the latest senior official to resign, saying he was leaving his post because of the "excessive use of violence", privately owned Quryna newspaper reported on Monday afternoon.
Libya's envoy to the Arab League, Abdel Moneim al-Honi, announced he was "joining the revolution", and its ambassador to India, Ali al-Essawi, told the BBC he was also resigning.
Mohamed Bayou, who until a month ago was chief spokesman for the Libyan government, said the leadership was wrong to threaten violence against its opponents.
Mr Bayou, in a statement quoted by the Reuters news agency, called on Saif al-Islam to acknowledge the opposition and open dialogue with them.
In another blow to Col Gaddafi's rule, two tribes - including Libya's largest tribe, the Warfla - have backed the protesters.
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Mid-East unrest: Libya
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has led since 1969
Population 6.5m; land area 1.77m sq km, much of it desert
Population with median age of 24.2, and a literacy rate of 88%
Gross national income per head: $12,020 (World Bank 2009)
Country profile: Libya
Oil price jumps on Libya unrest
Difficulty of reporting from inside Libya
Human Rights Watch says at least 233 people have died since last Thursday, though in his speech, Saif al-Islam insisted reports of the death toll had been exaggerated.
The US, UK and French governments are among those condemning the harsh treatment of protesters.
But Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, has close business links to Tripoli and voiced alarm at the prospect of the Gaddafi government collapsing.
"Would you imagine to have an Islamic Arab Emirate at the borders of Europe? This would be a very serious threat," said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, described the protesters' demands as legitimate, calling it a "decisive moment in history" for Arab nations.
Oil price jumps
Reports from several cities suggest the country is in turmoil:
In Az-Zawiya, 40km (25 miles) west of Tripoli, witnesses say the police have fled, government buildings have been burnt down and the city is in chaos.
Unconfirmed reports from the port city of Darnah say protesters are holding more than 300 workers hostage - many of them Bangladeshis.
Several hundred Libyans stormed a South Korean-run construction site west of Tripoli, injuring at least four workers.
In Benghazi, reports say 11 solders were killed by their commanding officers for refusing to fire on protesters.
The violence has helped to push up oil prices to their highest levels since the global financial crisis of 2008.
At one point, Brent crude - one of the main benchmarks on world oil markets - reached $105 (£65) a barrel.
International firms including BP, one of the world's biggest oil companies, are preparing to pull their staff out of Libya.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12523669