Gaddafi appears in public, greets supporters

February 26th, 2011 - 12:52 am ICT by IANS  

Tripoli, Feb 25 (IANS) Embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi Friday made an unexpected appearance in Tripoli’s Green Square, greeting a crowd of his supporters in a show of strength that he still had control over the capital.”We will die here on the soil of Libya. We will defeat foreign attempts as we did the former Italian imperialism,” he said as he waved the Libyan flag, DPA reported.

“We can defeat any aggression if necessary and arm the people,” Gaddafi said, in footage that was aired by Libyan state television Friday.

“You, the youth, be comfortable… dance, sing, stay up all night,” he said, Al Jazeera reported.

Pro-democracy demonstrations inspired by the successful revolutions that deposed decades-long rulers in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt have engulfed Libya since Feb 14.

Gaddafi’s last speech Thursday evening had been made by phone, leading to speculation about his physical condition.

The footage aired Friday, however, showed the leader standing above the square, waving his fist as he spoke.

His speech came even as thousands of protesters against his regime across Libya focused their attention on the capital Friday afternoon, following the mid-day prayer.

As demonstrators in Tripoli took to the street, security forces loyal to Gaddafi reportedly began firing on them.

There was heavy gun fire in various Tripoli districts including Fashloum, Ashour, Jumhouria and Souq Al, sources told Al Jazeera.

The death toll since violence began remains unclear, though Francois Zimeray, France’s top human rights official, said Thursday it could be as high as 2,000.

Demonstrators in the eastern part of the country, a region believed to be largely free from Gaddafi’s control, held protests in support for the demonstrations in the capital.

In the town of Derna, protesters held banners with the messages including “We are one Tribe called Libya, our only capital is Tripoli, we want freedom of speech”.

Gaddafi, who came to power 41 years ago in a bloodless military coup, Tuesday vowed to fight on to his “last drop of blood” and called on his supporters to confront the protesters.

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