Libyan protesters stormed Tripoli Monday and set government buildings on fire as the death toll mounts from an anti-protest bloodbath by security forces. Moammar Qaddafi’s armed forces are reportedly split and are fighting each other.
The spread of demonstrations to the capital of Tripoli served as further evidence that Gaddafi’s 41-year-old rule is about to end, but his son Seif al-Islam vowed “fight to the last bullet.”
Protesters in Tripoli torched the People’s Hall in Tripoli, a symbol of the rule of the eccentric Gaddafi. His forces, aided by mercenaries, have massacred more than 300 people, according to most estimates.
The country's air force bombed a crowd near a base it evacuated in order to prevent opponents from reaching weapons. Several army units reportedly have joined the rebels.
Libya is a major oil producer, but its population, particularly outside of Tripoli, suffers from poverty. Demonstrators have taken control of Benghazi, the country’s second largest city.
The turmoil in Libya has sparked a 3 percent rise in the price of oil on the world markets. The leader of a large tribe in eastern Libya threatened to cut oil exports to Western countries within 24 hours if Gaddafi did not stop the "oppression of protesters.” In addition, British Petroleum announced it is halting all oil exploration in the country.
Western nations, worried about civil rights but also about oil supplies, have begun to condemn the slaughter of protesters by government forces. However, the White House stated Sunday night it is “analyzing” that night's speech by Gaddafi’s son to see "what possibilities it contains for meaningful reform.”
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi warned of a civil war and that people can “forget about democracy [and] forget about reform." Several observers speculated the government purposely created mayhem in order to create a situation justifying ruthless measures to control the popular rebellion.