Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- As angry Libyan protesters attacked the state broadcaster and set government buildings ablaze in Tripoli today, Asharq al Awsat has learned from Libyan sources that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, met yesterday in Tripoli with several tribal elders, to listen to their demands. [This move was taken] in order to stop the violence and demonstrations which have been taking place in several eastern Libyan cities for days, demanding an end to the regime that has ruled Libya since 1969.
The sources, who are affiliated with the Gaddafi family, told Asharq al-Awsat in a telephone interview: “There is no truth in any rumors suggesting the Libyan Revolutionary Command Council, and a number of military leaders, have demanded that Gaddafi step down…all council members support the leader. Even Abdessalam Jalloud, one of the leaders of the Magariha tribe, who was considered the second most powerful man in the Libyan regime for a long period (although later ostracized from Gaddafi’s inner circle for a number of years), has expressed his support for Gaddafi”. The sources highlighted that all Libyan statesmen are currently located in Tripoli, which remains predominantly calm, with the exception of the thousands of people who have gathered in “Green Square” over the past four days to express their support for Gaddafi.
Sources close to Gaddafi said: “The Leader is based in Tripoli, and he himself is holding meetings and negotiations with various parties, and is carrying out the affairs of the state in person”.
Regarding the situation in the city of Benghazi, the sources revealed that the demonstrators had yesterday surrounded a military camp in the city, which is being fortified by the troops inside. They explained that some clashes took place at the gates of the camp, when protestors tried to break in. Furthermore, they confirmed that the army does not wish to leave its barracks, so as not to clash with the protestors.
The sources denied that Islamist cadres are leading the demonstrations, stating that: “Libyan authorities recently released 110 Islamists belonging to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), following their initiative to stop the violence. All of them returned to their homes, they did not lead the armed militias or anti-Gaddafi protests. In fact, their leader appeared on BBC Television to express his support for Gaddafi”.
The sources added: “No one knows who is behind these acts, especially in the city of al-Bayda, which is still out of control”. They pointed out that the Libyan regime still refuses to intervene by force to restore security to al-Bayda, because it has [instead] “granted an opportunity to negotiate with tribal elders, in order to appease the rioters”.
The sources warned of the danger of what is happening in east Libya, saying that: “matters are developing quickly, and following a dangerous curve. At the beginning of the demonstrations, demands were related to improving living conditions, then the overthrow of the regime, and now they are demanding the secession of east Libya, and the establishment of a new state. This separatist direction is dangerous, especially as the Libyan authorities observed the presence of foreign elements in both Benghazi and al-Bayda. Perhaps it is these elements that are behind the escalating situations in both cities, and they are helping to fuel separatist demands”.
Sources revealed there had been communication disruptions relating to the internet and mobile phones for some time, in a number of Libyan cities, because some armed militias had destroyed mobile frequency towers, and internet connection infrastructure. However, these services returned to normal yesterday afternoon.