Protesters Said To Control Parts Of Eastern Libya
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
We're keeping a close watch on Libya this morning, and at this moment that country's long-time dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, is on state TV vowing to fight on against protesters demanding his ouster. Gadhafi said he would, as he put it, die as a martyr.
MOAMMAR GADHAFI: (Through translator) This is my country, the country of my great-grandfathers. We planted and we, you know, watered it with our grandfathers' blood. We deserve(ph) Libya.
MONTAGNE: And Lourdes, describe the scene for us there at the border.
LOURDES GARCIA: They've also showed us some fairly gruesome video of what happened in the first few days of the protests, when they say Gadhafi's forces sent mercenaries from African nations out against them. And we saw quite a few difficult videos to watch of basically gangs of young men assaulting these people and then pictures of their mutilated bodies. So clearly quite a violent response to the violence that was perpetrated against them, they say.
MONTAGNE: And just briefly, when you say foreign mercenaries, who would those be?
GARCIA: Well, it's difficult to know. They say that these are mercenaries sent in from Sudan, from Chad. Some even allege that there were some Algerian forces in there. It was a question that we asked them, how do you know that these are foreigners, and they said we just knew by the color of their skin, by their accents. And I did see one particular video where they did manage to get a weapon from one of these men, and so clearly they were armed, at least some of them.
MONTAGNE: Let's talk about the city of Benghazi, where the protesters really seemed to have gotten control pretty fast. What are you hearing about conditions there?
GARCIA: And also what we're hearing is that these pro-democracy forces are very well armed. They managed to wrest a lot of weapons away from the police. In some cases we also have heard reports from those fleeing that the army and police forces joined the pro-democracy forces. And what they're telling me is that they're calling this eastern part of the country Free Libya. They feel that they have control of the situation and that they have essentially wrested the eastern part of Libya away from Gadhafi's control.
MONTAGNE: We have all heard, of course, your coverage of protests in Egypt, the protest that ousted Hosni Mubarak. How would you compare that with the stories you are hearing from Libyans now?
GARCIA: However, when I brought this up with some of the men that I've been speaking to, they said we had to defend ourselves. There was terrible violence being perpetrated against us. There was a massacre in some cities, and we needed to defend ourselves, and so we did.
MONTAGNE: Lourdes, thanks very much.
GARCIA: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reporting from Libya's eastern border with Egypt.
INSKEEP: And we'll be updating you on Libya throughout today's program whenever we get word of new developments.
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