Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi through the years. From left to right: 1975, 1999 and 2010.
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi insisted in a phone speech broadcast today on Libyan state television that he will not step down, while claiming “it’s obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaida,” according to al-Jazeera’s translation.
Speaking from an unspecified location, Qaddafi described protesters as young people who have been manipulated by Osama bin Laden and are under the influence of drugs. "No one above the age of 20 would actually take part in these events," Qaddafi said. "They are taking advantage of the young age of these people [to commit violent acts] because they are not legally liable."
It was only the latest accusation Qaddafi has made about the protesters. In a defiant and rambling speech earlier this week, the Libyan leader blamed foreign influences and subversive forces paid to instigate violence, and he urged citizens to take to the streets and defend his regime against the “greasy rats.”
Unlike protesters in Egypt or Tunisia, who ousted their longtime strongman rulers, Libyans “have no reason to complain whatsoever,” Qaddafi said today.
In the newest speech, Qaddafi urged Libyan parents to "come out of your houses and talk to your sons” whom he claimed bin Laden had been “duping.”
Qaddafi, who has ruled for 42 years, noted that Queen Elizabeth II has ruled longer than he has, yet has not been overthrown. The uprising in Libya, he said, is “not the people's power, it's international terrorism led by al-Qaida,” according to the BBC translation.
Meanwhile, in the western Libyan town of Zawiya, where protesters are engaged with Qaddafi’s government forces in a struggle for control, the BBC quoted the brother of an anti-government protester who said Qaddafi’s forces attacked “with machine guns.”
“They started shooting the people who didn't have any kind of weapon to defend themselves. The soldiers were using Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades…. A bloodbath there,” the unidentified Libyan said.
Protesters have retained control of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, but Qaddafi’s forces are fighting fiercely to retain control of the capital, Tripoli, and other western cities. News reports indicate Qaddafi’s security forces have been brandishing machetes and opening fire. Qaddafi said in an earlier speech that he would fight “until the last drop of my blood.”