Ghadaffi defiant as hold on power crumbles

Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi’s hold on power in Libya appeared to have weakened on 22 February as he made his first television appearance since the violence broke out. Responding to rumours on 21 February that he had fled the country, Ghadaffi said: “I want to clarify for them [foreign television stations] that I am in Tripoli not in Venezuela. Do not believe these channels – they are dogs”. He went on to say “I am satisfied, because I was speaking in front of the youth in the Green Square [in central Tripoli] tonight, but the rain came, praise to God, it is a good omen.”

Ghadaffi’s appearance came after a day in which his hold on power appeared close to crumbling despite continued violence between security forces loyal to the regime and protesters, increasingly emboldened by defections from the military and tribes previously loyal to Ghadaffi. The regime acknowledges it has lost control of the eastern cities of Benghazi and Al-Bayda, and there are serious doubts as to whether it now also controls other major towns such as Tobruk and Misrata. At least 300 people are reported by media sources to have been killed so far in the uprising, although this may well be a substantial underestimate.