Thousands of government supporters responded to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's fiery televised speech late Tuesday by flocking to Green Square, waving their bandanas, carrying machetes and preparing for what appeared to be neighborhood-to-neighborhood searches for protesters in outlying parts of the city.
“It looks like they have been given a green light to kill these people,” a witness told the New York Times.
In a television appearance, the second in two days, Gaddafi urged his supporters to take to the streets and attack protesters who sought to challenge his rule.
"You men and women who love Gaddafi ... get out of your homes and fill the streets," he said. "Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs ... Starting tomorrow the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them."
He also vowed to fight until the end and die a martyr for the country.
"I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents," he said as he spoke from the entrance of a bombed-out building that appeared to be his Tripoli residence, hit by U.S. air raids in the 1980s and left in disrepair as a monument. "I will die as a martyr at the end."
Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who has called for Gaddafi to step down, warned that the speech threatens to trigger a "genocide" in the country. He said he had information that Gaddafi's supporters and foreign mercenaries had started attacking people across western Libya.
"I think the genocide has started now in Libya," Dabbashi said from New York. "The Gaddafi statement was just code for his collaborators to start the genocide against the Libyan people. It just started a few hours ago. I hope the information I get is not accurate but if it is, it will be a real genocide."
After a week of demonstrations, protesters, supported by defecting army units, have taken control over almost the entire eastern half of Libya's Mediterranean coast. In Benghazi, where the protests first gathered steam, anti-government demonstrators who now control the city threw their shoes at a screen showing Gaddafi's address.
Earlier Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on the escalating crisis in Libya and issued a statement condemning the violence and calling for an end to the crackdown.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Tuesday that Libya's attacks on protesters may amount to crimes against humanity. In a statement, Pillay called for the immediate halt to human rights violations and denounced the reported use of machine guns, snipers and military planes against civilians, Reuters reported. "Widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity," said Pillay, a former United Nations war crimes judge.
Jon Jensen, reporting by phone for GlobalPost from Sallum on the Egypt-Libya border on Tuesday, said that border guards had opened the crossing to enable the sick and injured to enter Egypt.
Jensen spoke with several returnees who described a state of lawlessness with mainly anti-government forces in control and only pockets of fighters loyal to the regime.
"Everybody inside Libya has a gun. It's completely lawless," he quoted one as saying. "We're really happy to get back into Egypt because it's safer," said another, calling himself Ali Hussein. "There's no government [in Libya]."
Read more about the protests in Libya.
Watch this video from the Egypt-Libya border.
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