Protesters stay defiant after Gadhafi's speech

Updated: 2011-02-24 07:38

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Protesters stay defiant after Gadhafi's speech

A Bulgarian boy returning from Libya is welcomed by his relatives upon his arrival at Sofia Airport in Bulgaria on Wednesday. About 110 Bulgarians arrived on a flight from Tripoli as violent unrest against Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi keeps developing. Dimitar Dilkoff / Agence France-Presse

The opposition has reportedly seized control of key city Misurata

CAIRO - Heavy gunfire broke out in Libya's capital on Wednesday as forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi opened fire in the streets a day after the longtime leader vowed to defend his rule and called on supporters to crack down on anti-government protesters.

The fighting in Tripoli came as the opposition reportedly seized control of Misurata, with witnesses saying people were honking their horns and raising pre-Gadhafi flags from the monarchy to celebrate.

Misurata would be the first major city in the west to fall to anti-government forces, which have mainly been concentrated in the east. Faraj al-Misrati, a local doctor, said six residents had been killed and 200 injured since Jan 18, when protesters attacked offices and buildings affiliated with Gadhafi's regime.

International alarm has risen over the crisis, which sent oil prices soaring to the highest level in more than two years on Tuesday.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting that ended with a statement condemning the crackdown, expressing "grave concern" and calling for an "immediate end to the violence" and steps to address the legitimate demands of the Libyan people.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also pressed on Wednesday for European Union sanctions against Libya's regime because of its violent crackdown on protesters, and raised the possibility of cutting all economic and business ties between the EU and the North African nation.

A journey home

Governments around the world scrambled on Wednesday to send planes and ships to evacuate their citizens from turmoil in Libya.

Fears for the safety of foreigners were heightened after CNN-Turk news channel reported on its website that a Turkish worker had been shot dead at a building site near the capital Tripoli.

Some 3,000 Turks who found sanctuary in a soccer stadium in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the uprising began, boarded ferry boats and set sail for home escorted by a Turkish navy frigate, while two French military planes brought 402 French nationals back to Paris.

Britain said on Tuesday it planned to send a charter plane to Libya to bring out Britons and was dispatching a Royal Navy frigate to waters off Libya in case it was needed. The United States said it would start evacuating US citizens by ferry from Tripoli to Valletta, Malta.

Germany urged all its citizens to leave the country, as Chancellor Angela Merkel described as "very frightening" Gadhafi's words that he was ready to die "a martyr".

Canada has also said it intends to evacuate its citizens.

With eastern regions breaking free of Gadhafi's rule and deadly unrest hitting the capital Tripoli, the Netherlands, Greece, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Spain, Italy, Japan, Russia and Saudi Arabia also sent or were planning to send military and civilian planes for their nationals.



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