“I think the pilot is a good man. He was given orders to bomb the camp but he didn’t,” Mr. al-Zawi said. “We needed the weapons to protect ourselves and the city from the mercenaries.”
In Benghazi, protesters over the weekend overran police stations and security headquarters, taking control of the streets with the help of army units that broke away and sided with them.
Benghazi residents, however, remained in fear of a regime backlash. One doctor in the city said Tuesday many spent the night outside their homes, hearing rumors that airstrikes and artillery assaults were imminent. “We know that although we are in control of the city, Gadhafi loyalists are still here hiding and they can do anything anytime,” he said.
Col. Gadhafi, the longest serving Arab leader, appeared briefly on TV early Tuesday to dispel rumors that he had fled. Sitting in a car in front of what appeared to be his residence and holding an umbrella out of the passenger side door, he told an interviewer that he had wanted to go to the capital’s Green Square to talk to his supporters gathered there, but the rain stopped him.
“I am here to show that I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Don’t believe those misleading dog stations,” Col. Gadhafi said, referring to the media reports that he had left the country. The video clip and comments lasted less than a minute.
But Tuesday evening’s speech lasted well over a half hour. During it, Col. Gadhafi recounting his days as a young revolutionary leader who “liberated” Libya — a reference to the 1969 military coup that brought him to power — and his defiance against U.S. airstrikes.
He insisted that since he has no official title, he cannot resign — Col. Gadhafi is referred to as the “brother leader,” but is not president. He said he had not ordered police to use any force used against protesters — that his supporters had come out voluntarily to defend him. “I haven’t ordered a single bullet fired,” he said, warning that if he does, “everything will burn.”
He said that if protests didn’t end, he would stage a “holy march” with millions of supporters to cleanse Libya. He demanded protesters in Benghazi hand over weapons taken from captured police stations and military bases, warning of separatism and civil war.
“No one allows his country to be a joke or let a mad man separate a part of it,” he declared.
Associated Press writers Hamza Hendawi in Cairo and John Heilprin in Geneva contributed to this report.