Libyan Soldiers Defect
21 Feb 2011
Al Jazeera and agencies [Excerpts]
Anti-government protesters rallied in Tripoli's streets, tribal leaders spoke out against Gaddafi, and army units defected to the opposition as oil exporter Libya endured one of the bloodiest revolts to convulse the Arab world.
In Benghazi Habib al-Obaidi, a surgeon at the Al-Jalae hospital, said the bodies of 50 people, mostly shot dead, were brought there on Sunday afternoon. Two hundred wounded had arrived, he said.
Members of an army unit known as the "Thunderbolt" squad had brought wounded comrades to the hospital, he said.
The soldiers said they had defected to the cause of the protesters and had fought and defeated Gaddafi's elite guards.
"They are now saying that they have overpowered the Praetorian Guard and that they have joined the people's revolt," another man at the hospital, lawyer Mohamed al-Mana, told Reuters by telephone. "We are in Tripoli, there are chants (directed at Gaddafi): ‘Where are you? Where are you? Come out if you're a man," a protester told Al Jazeera on the phone.
Meanwhile the head of the Al-Zuwayya tribe in eastern Libya has threatened to cut off oil exports unless authorities stop what he called the "oppression of protesters", the Warfala tribe, one of Libya's biggest, has reportedly joined the anti-Gaddafi protests.
Protests have also reportedly broken out in other cities, including Bayda, Derna, Tobruk and Misrata - and anti-Gaddafi graffiti adorns the walls of several cities.
Anti-government protesters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi have reportedly seized army vehicles and weapons amid worsening turmoil in the African nation.
A local witness said that a section of the troops had joined the protesters on Sunday as chaos swept the streets of the city, worst hit by the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year old rule.
Mohamed, a doctor from Al Jalaa hospital in Benghazi, confirmed to Al Jazeera that members of the military had sided with the protesters.
"We are still receiving serious injuries, I can confirm 13 deaths in our hospital. However, the good news is that people are cheering and celebrating outside after receiving news that the army is siding with the people," he said.
The forces who remain are "thugs" loyal to Gaddafi, Moftah said, and they are firing high-caliber ammunition at protesters.
The eyewitness report came a day after security forces opened fire at a funeral in the eastern coastal city on Saturday, killing at least 15 people and injuring scores more.
Against this backdrop of violence, opposition groups said some 50 Libyan Muslim leaders have urged security forces to stop killing civilians.