The United States on Monday demanded an end to the “unacceptable bloodshed” in Libya with violence spreading in Tripoli, as Moammar Gadhafi appeared to be losing his iron grip on his oil-rich nation as it became swept up in the Arab uprisings gripping the Middle East.
“The world is watching the situation in Libya with alarm,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Washington. “We join the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya.
“Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been lost, and with their loved ones.”
The State Department ordered the evacuation of families and nonessential staff from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
“If he doesn’t [resign], the Libyan people will get rid of him,” Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi warned. “We also call on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate the crimes against humanity committed by Gadhafi against the Libyan people.”
On Sunday, the Libyan ambassador to the Arab League, Abdel Moneim al-Honi, quit, saying, “I am joining the ranks of the revolution.”
Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil also resigned this week. He said he was leaving to protest the “excessive use of force” against unarmed demonstrators, according to the pro-government news website Qureyna.
“The justice minister is someone who has long been at odds with the government and the security forces. … I fear for his safety,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
One Libyan dissident in the United States, who asked not to be identified, told The Washington Times that people in Libya are afraid to speak to reporters because “they could be dead five minutes later.”
She said Col. Gadhafi’s regime blocked communications in Tripoli and that cell phones and land lines appeared to have been disrupted at some point Monday.
Videos posted online showed the extent of the regime’s brutal crackdown in Benghazi and Tripoli. The images appear to confirm claims that the regime has used anti-tank artillery against unarmed protesters.
“In Benghazi, the streets are strewn with body parts because of the heavy artillery that was fired,” another female dissident, who also asked to remain anonymous, told The Times.
She said friends in Libya told her that snipers had shot protesters and anyone who attempted to retrieve the bodies. Several dissidents contacted by The Times said the regime has injected foreign mercenaries — flown in on helicopters and loaded in trucks — into the unrest in an attempt to crush the protests.
A third dissident said similar repression by the regime only served to harden the resolve of the residents of Benghazi, now under the control of protesters and rebel soldiers who said they “liberated” Libya’s second-largest city from government forces on Sunday.