Deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has called on his countrymen to take to the streets and wage a campaign of civil disobedience against the country’s new leaders — the first word from the fugitive leader in just over two weeks.
In comments broadcast on Thursday, Qaddafi said the National Transitional Council, which has assumed leadership of the country since then-rebel forces swept into Tripoli in late August, has no legitimacy because it was not nominated or appointed by the Libyan people.
He called on Libyans to “go out in new million-man marches in all cities and villages and oases.”
“Be courageous, rise up, go out in the streets,” he said. “Raise the green flag in the skies ... the conditions in Libya are unbearable.”
Qaddafi made the appeal in a poor-quality audio recording and it was not possible to verify his identity, but it was broadcast on Syrian-based Al-Rai TV, which has become the mouthpiece of his resistance.
Revolutionary forces, aided by NATO air strikes, have gained control over most of the North African nation and forced the former leader and two of his sons into hiding.
Qaddafi has made several speeches on Al-Rai as he tries to rally supporters, who are still waging fierce resistance in his besieged hometown of Sirte, the town of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli, and pockets in the south.
He was last heard on Sept. 20, calling the revolution a “charade gaining its legitimacy through air strikes.”
The International Red Cross, meanwhile, delivered medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to civilians in Sirte amid rapidly deteriorating conditions.
Dibeh Fakhr, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said two trucks entered Sirte and distributed the goods, which included baby milk, hygiene kits, diapers and clean drinking water.
It was the ICRC’s third successful foray into the Mediterranean coastal city since Saturday, but the first time aid workers reached the main hospital.
Sirte, 400km southeast of Tripoli, is the most important of the pro-Qaddafi cities that are still holding out against Libya’s new rulers, and its defenders have put up a fierce resistance, with the two sides trading artillery, tank and mortar shelling.
Hundreds of families have been streaming out of the city to escape the violence. Thousands have set up camp outside Sirte, raising concerns about a possible humanitarian crisis. Revolutionary forces say they have delayed a full assault to give willing civilians time to flee.
“Sirte is becoming a ghost town,” resident Salim Omar said as he passed a checkpoint manned by revolutionary forces on the city’s western outskirts.
The Red Cross reached the Ibn Sina Hospital on Thursday morning after receiving assurances from both sides that they would be given safe passage. They evacuated three people suffering from serious injuries, including a nine-year-old girl.
Patients were being treated in the hospital corridors because the wards were exposed to heavy shelling and gunfire, Fakhr said. She added that there was no electricity or running water and few medical staff.
“Only three doctors are remaining inside — one anesthetist, one surgeon and one orthopedist — and some medical students are trying to help the situation,” she said.
She called on both sides to spare the hospital and the many wounded civilians inside.
Fakhr did not have an estimate for the number of civilians left inside Sirte. She said most people fleeing the city were leaving toward the east. About 18,000 people living in camps in that area had received aid this week from the ICRC, she said.
NATO ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday said the bombing campaign in Libya would continue until armed resistance to the new pro-Western regime ceased.
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