Western Journalists Cross Into Libya
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
We're getting a better picture of the situation in parts of Libya today and it is one of disarray. Much of eastern Libya is in the hands of anti-government protesters. And in the capital, Tripoli, the besieged leader, Moammar Gadhafi, gave an impassioned speech in which he declared he will stay or die in power. Here he is through an interpreter over Al-Jazeera's English language news channel.
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MOAMMAR GADHAFI: (Through translator) I will not leave the country and I will die - and I'll die as martyr at the end.
NORRIS: NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro crossed into Libya from Egypt earlier today. She's among the first Western journalist to enter the country since the uprising began. And she joins us. Lourdes, could you describe what you've been able to see so far?
LOURDES GARCIA NAVARRO: We stopped at a looted and abandoned army base. In effect, the apparatus of the state here has completely disappeared. The buildings, they were burned, the armory had been looted. Pro-democracy forces tell me they are now heavily armed from the weaponry that they've managed to get from these armories. One man recounted how in his town of Beida, they now have anti-aircraft missiles and other heavy weaponry at their disposal.
NORRIS: Is there still fighting in that area?
GARCIA NAVARRO: And now, about 350 of them are being held. And when I asked what would happen to those pro-Gadhafi forces, I was told matter of factly that the foreign mercenaries would be executed. I've already seen videos and pictures, too many to count, of what people here tell me are dead mercenaries killed by the crowd in many cities here in the east.
NORRIS: So when we hear Gadhafi call for the military to crush the protesters, it sounds like it's a very different picture there. What would that mean there? Is there - it sounds like there's not much of a military presence there, at least a pro-Gadhafi military presence.
GARCIA NAVARRO: Yes. There's very little pro-Gadhafi military presence. Certainly, though, in the lobby right behind me, the general of the Libyan forces here in the east is actually giving a press conference, talking about how he is no longer on the side of Gadhafi. So you see that this area is seemingly broken away and they feel that they can wait it out. They're just waiting for Gadhafi to leave.
NORRIS: What do the people in this part of Libya expect now? There are suggestions or tweets in other reports that they're actually developing different names for this part of the country.
GARCIA NAVARRO: Now, Michele, if you think about this country, this has been a country where very few Western journalists have traveled before without the accompaniment of a minder and very few people have been able to travel it and speak to people frankly. And this is the first time that they were actually able to speak to a Western journalist openly about what they felt about Moammar Gadhafi. And what they felt was a great deal of contempt and rage.
NORRIS: NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro is reporting from eastern Libya. Lourdes, thank you very much. And please stay safe.
GARCIA NAVARRO: You're welcome.
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