Besieged Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi made another erratic and threatening speech to his divided nation as insurgent forces closed in around him and his supporters bunkered into the capital of Tripoli.
Friday loomed as decisive as opposition forces said they were determined to make a final push to oust the dictator on the traditional Arab day of prayer.
As more government and security officials defected and rebel civilian forces set up a provisional government in the eastern city of Benghazi, Gaddafi phoned his speech into state media and compared himself to the Queen of England. The London-based Telegraph reports:
The embattled dictator said he was like the Queen, who he says has not been overthrown for 57 years.
"You need to listen to your parents. If people disobey their parents they end up destroying the country, he said. "The same case as in Britain (where) for 57 years the Queen has been ruling. I have been in the same situation.
"I am not in the same position to be able to impose rule on the people. I have become more of a symbolic leader. I have no power, it's the people themselves who have the prerogative.”
He also blamed the 8-day old uprising that is threatening to dismantle his 42-year old one man rule on Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. As more and more national territory both to the east and west of the capital were liberated by protesters and insurgent civilains, Gaddafi’s counter-attack was more than verbal. The New York Times says the regime has struck back at opponents with “thousands of mercenary and other forces":
The bloodiest fighting centered on Zawiya, a gateway city to the capital, just 30 miles west of Tripoli. Early Thursday, Colonel Qaddafi’s forces arrived and unleashed an assault using automatic weapons and an anti-aircraft gun on a mosque occupied by rebels armed with hunting rifles, Libyans who had fled the country said.
An exiled Libyan who had been in contact with members of the opposition in Zawiya said the battle lasted four hours and had killed at least 100. Fighting intensified in other cities near Tripoli as well — Misurata, 130 miles to the east, and Sabratha, about 50 miles west. Zuara, 75 miles west of the capital, had fallen to anti-government militias, other reports said.
To the east, at least half of the nation’s 1,000-mile Mediterranean coast, up to the port of Ra’s Lanuf, appeared to have fallen to opposition forces, a Guardian correspondent in the area reported…
… Nonetheless, protesters in Tripoli were calling for a massive demonstration on Friday after noon prayers, residents of the city and those fleeing the country said. In recent days, witnesses said, Colonel Qaddafi appears to have pulled many of his militiamen and mercenaries back toward the capital to prepare for its defense.
See Gaddafi's latest speech in full.
As the bloody conflict in Libya is coming to a head, at a cost so far of as many as 1000 lives, the U.S. and other Western countries are still at a loss in coming up with a concrete response.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports the Libyan government continues to block international communications:
Thuraya, a satellite phone provider based in the United Arab Emirates, has faced continuous "deliberate inference" to its services in Libya, the company's CEO told Al Jazeera.
Samer Halawi, the company's CEO, said his company will be taking legal action against the Libyan authorities for the jamming of its satellite."This is unlawful and this in uncalled for," he said.
The company's engineers have had some success in combating the jamming, and operations were back on almost 70 per cent of the Libyan territory on Thursday, Halawi said. The blocking was coming from a location in Tripoli.
The Libyan government has blocked landline and wireless communications, to varying degrees, in recent days.
Some phone services were down again on Thursday. In the town of Az Zawiyah, phone lines were working but internet access was blocked.
Nazanine Moshri, reporting from the northern side of the Tunisian-Libyan border near the town of Ras Ajdir, said that security forces were confiscating cellphones and cameras from people crossing into Tunisia.