Most of Libya is out of control of the government, and Muammar Gaddafi’s grip on power may soon be confined only to the capital, Tripoli, Libya’s former interior minister has said.
General Abdul Fatteh Younis told Al Jazeera on Saturday that he had called upon Gaddafi to end his resistance to the uprising, although he does not expect him to do so.
The embattled Libyan regime passed out guns to civilian supporters, set up checkpoints and sent out armed patrols, witnesses said in Tripoli.
Some of Libya’s security forces reportedly have given up the fight. Footage believed to be filmed on Friday showed soldiers joining the protesters.
The footage showed demonstrators carrying them on their shoulders in the city of Az Zawiyah after having defected — a scene activists said is being repeated across the country.
Al Jazeera, however, is unable to independently verify the content of the video, which was obtained via social networking websites.
Our correspondent in Libya reported on Friday that army commanders in the east who had defected had told her that military commanders in the country’s west were also beginning to turn against Gaddafi.
They warned, however, that the Khamis Brigade, an army special forces brigade that is loyal to the Gaddafi family and is equipped with sophisticated weapons, is currently still fighting anti-government forces.
Our correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, said that despite the gains, people are anxious about what Gaddafi might do next and also because his loyalists were still at large.
Mustafa Mohamed Abud Ajleil, Libya’s former justice minister, has led the formation of an interim government based in the eastern city of Benghazi, the online edition of the Quryna newspaper reported on Saturday.
Quryna quoted him as saying that Muammar Gaddafi “alone” bore responsibility “for the crimes that have occurred” in Libya and that his tribe, Gaddadfa, were forgiven.
“Abud Ajleil insisted on the unity of the homeland’s territory, and that Libya is free and its capital is Tripoli,” Quryna quoted him as saying in a telephone conversation.
Abu Yousef, a resident from the town of Tajoura, told Al Jazeera that live ammunition was being used against anti-government protesters.
“Security forces are also searching houses in the area and killing those who they accuse of being against the government,” he said.
Anti-government protesters have attacked black Africans in Libya, mistaking them for mercenaries.
“The situation is very dangerous. Every day there are more than a hundred who die, every day there are shootings. The most dangerous situation is for foreigners like us and also us black people. Because Gaddafi brought soldiers from Chad from Niger. They are black and tey are killing Arabs,” Seidou Boubaker Jallou told Al Jazeera.
Jallou and his friend, both from Mali, fled by night to the Tunisian border. They said the roads out of the West are still in the hands of those loyal to Gaddafi.
Zawiya, a town 120 km from the Tunisian border, is now in the hands of the people. Egyptians who arrived at the border described a bloody massacre on Thursday which left many dead.
“I was in Zawiya’s martyrs square. There was a group of army men in the square who attacked the protesters. It was a very fierce confrontation. They were shooting using heavy weaponry. There were at least 15 to 20 dead and I had footage of what happened but the Libyan authorities on the Tunisian border took even my phone. Gaddafi wants to commit a crime with the absence of any media,” Ahmed, an Egyptian, told Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri.
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader’s son, said people in “three-quarters of the country are living in peace”.
In an interview on Al-Arabiya television, Seif said that the protesters are being manipulated and that the situation had “opened the doors to a civil war”.
He denied that African mercenaries had been recruited to attack the protesters in a crackdown that the United Nations say has killed at least 1,000 people.
“Show us the mercenaries, show us the women and children who were killed,” he said. “These reports about mercenaries are lies.” The protests were being led by “small groups, armed groups,” according to Seif al-Islam.
“Those provoking these people are terrorists,” he added, echoing his father who in a televised address last week blamed al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden for manipulating the country’s youth with drugs.
The eastern region of the oil-rich North African nation is now believed to be largely free of Gaddafi control since the popular uprising began on February 14 with protests in the city of Benghazi.
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the town of Al-Baida in eastern Libya, said that while many parts of the country’s east is no longer government controlled, local residents do not want to separate from the rest of Libya.
“They still want a united Libya, and want Tripoli to remain its capital,” she said.
Our correspondent added that many in the country’s east have felt abandoned by the Gaddafi government, despite the vast oil wealth located in the region.
The crackdown has sparked international condemnation. The United States said it was moving ahead with sanctions against the regime.
Barack Obama, the US president, issued an executive order, seizing assets and blocking any property in the United States belonging to Gaddafi or his four sons.
The European Union also agreed to impose an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans on Libya.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said on Friday that decisive action by the Security Council against the crackdown must be taken, warning that any delay would add to the growing death toll which he said now came to over 1,000.
The official death toll in the violence remains unclear. Francois Zimeray, France’s top human rights official, has said that it could be as high as 2,000.
Ban’s call, as well as an emotional speech by the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, prompted the council to order a special meeting on Saturday to consider a sanctions resolution against Gaddafi.