- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

President Obama strongly condemned the violence in Libya but failed Wednesday afternoon to call for the resignation of Moammar Gadhafi hours after the Libyan dictator unleashed a wave of terror in the streets of Tripoli against opponents demanding an end to his brutal regime of more than 40 years.

Mr. Obama’s comments were his first since the uprising erupted more than a week ago in the oil-rich North African nation and a day after Col. Gadhafi called on his supporters to take back the streets of the Libyan capital and claimed he had not ordered any of the earlier crackdowns.

“We strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya,” Mr. Obama said in brief remarks at the White House. “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya.

“These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. Like all governments, the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence. … It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities.”

The president added that he was dispatching Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Geneva for international talks Monday aimed at stopping the violence.

A protester Wednesday shouts slogans against dictator Moammar Gadhafi in Tobruk, Libya. Thousands in the coastal town celebrated their struggle against Col. Gadhafi by waving flags of the old monarchy and firing guns in the air. (Associated Press)
A protester Wednesday shouts slogans against dictator Moammar Gadhafi in Tobruk, Libya. ... more >

Mr. Obama added that he was studying a “full range of options” against the Libyan regime, including sanctions the U.S. would initiate with its allies. The European Union is also considering sanctions.

“We are doing everything we can to protect American citizens,” Mr. Obama said, referring to U.S. citizens desperately trying to flee Libya.

In Libya, Col. Gadhafi’s supporters unleashed a reign of terror in Tripoli Tuesday night and early Wednesday after the dictator exhorted them to go house to house attacking opponents of his regime.

Libyans interviewed by The Washington Times provided conflicting accounts of atrocities by pro-Gadhafi groups and African mercenaries in the capital. They all agreed that the situation in the capital remained tense and residents were too afraid to leave their homes for fear of being shot by mercenaries.

A female dissident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Al Zawiya Street Hospital in Tripoli had received “several rape victims following Gadhafi’s speech of conducting door-to-door cleansing of the city.”

“Family honor and respect for women is highly regarded in Libya, so going house to house and attacking women is a way of humiliating families and deterring the men from taking to the streets,” she added, noting that Col. Gadhafi vowed to “purify” Libya in his defiant speech broadcast Tuesday.

Safiah Ibrahim, a Libyan-Canadian in Ottawa, said she had received accounts from sources in Libya that more than 200 women had been raped in Tripoli on Tuesday night.

Fred Abrahams, a special adviser at Human Rights Watch, said his organization also received reports of rape but could not independently confirm the accounts.

However, Naser Edeeb, who said he donated blood at Al Zawiya Street Hospital on Wednesday morning, told The Times in an Internet telephone conversation from Tripoli that the number of reported rapes was exaggerated.

Col. Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi went on television Wednesday evening to say that everything was “normal.”

Story Continues →