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Libyans say Gaddafi “butcher”, flick V-for-victory
Border controlled by anti-Gaddafi gunmen.
February 22, 2011 4:08 by Reuters
The Libyan side of the Egyptian border was controlled on Tuesday by anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles who welcomed visitors from Egypt, a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.
One held up a picture of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, upside down, and defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans”, the correspondent said when passing through the town of Musaid, just inside the Libyan side of the border. The men were welcoming and waved cars through.
Egypt’s army said Libyan border guards had been withdrawn, with Libya’s side of the border controlled by “people’s committees”, without giving details of their allegiance.
Gaddafi used tanks, helicopters and warplanes to fight a growing revolt, witnesses said on Tuesday, as the veteran leader scoffed at reports he was fleeing after four decades in power.
Demonstrations have spread to Tripoli from the second city Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that has engulfed a number of towns and which residents say is now in the hands of protesters.
One Libyan, who could not be identified, told the Reuters correspondent inside Libya that Benghazi had been “liberated” from a battalion belonging to one of Gaddafi’s sons since Saturday.
Driving along a stretch of desert road with the occasional low-brick house and goat herds, groups of rebels with assault rifles and shotguns, waved cheerily at the passing cars.
“Photo! Photo!” they said, flicking the V-for-victory sign and posing with their guns. One of the Libyans, mocking the personality cult cultivated by Gaddafi, pointed at graffiti which read: “No God, but Allah”.
Security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting in Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of repression and following uprisings that have toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.
“THIS IS GENOCIDE”
Speaking to Reuters by telephone from the Libyan town of Al Bayda, one Libyan described on Tuesday how forces using aircraft and tanks killed 26 local people overnight, including his own brother.
Libyans were now “scared of their own shadows”, said Marai Al Mahry, from the Ashraf tribe, who named his dead brother as Ahmed al Mahry.
“This is worse than anyone can imagine, this is something no human can fathom. They are bombing us with planes, they are killing us with tanks,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.
Mahry accused forces loyal to Gaddafi of indiscriminate killing on the streets of the coastal town, which lies east of Benghazi. “They shoot you just for walking on the street.”
His account could not be independently corroborated.
“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said 42-year-old Mahry.
Describing the climate of fear created by the crackdown, he said: “Libyans are scared of their own shadows, children can’t sleep. It is like we are on another planet.”
Keen to send his message to neighbouring Egypt and beyond, he said: “I call on the people of the world — I call on the Egyptians — to pray for us, to demonstrate for us.”
Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on Feb.11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.
KILLING AND BANDITRY
Piled onto tractors and trucks, hundreds of Egyptians streamed over the border from Libya on Tuesday, describing a wave of killing and banditry unleashed by the revolt.
A witness who had fled the city of Benghazi said at least 2,000 people had been killed there — a figure that could not be corroborated but which indicated the scale of destruction people believed was wrought by a week of violence.
Egyptians described a treacherous journey out of Libya in which they were shot at by bandits taking advantage of the chaos.
Hassan Kamel Mohamed, a 24-year-old steel worker who had fled from Tobruk, said: “There were thugs everywhere and they would pull weapons on you at any time.”
“We were trying to sleep at night but we couldn’t. Thugs would fire in the air every fifteen minutes. They took our money, they took everything.”
Mohamed Bayoumy, 37, said he had been travelling for three days in the western part of the country and that there were armed groups along the road, demanding bribes.
Another man, who declined to be named, said: “The situation is bad for Egyptians right now.”
“They took money from us and shot at us,” he said, declining to give his name.
“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.
(Reporting by a Reuters correspondent, Writing by Edmund Blair and Peter Millership in Cairo; Editing by Giles Elgood)