CAIRO — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi vows to fight on and die a “martyr,” calling on his supporters to take back the streets from protesters demanding his ouster, shouting and pounding his fist in a furious speech Tuesday on state TV.
Gadhafi, swathed in brown robes and turban, spoke from a podium set up in the entrance of a bombed out building that appeared to be his Tripoli residence hit by U.S. airstrikes in the 1980s and left unrepaired as a monument of defiance. The speech, which appeared to have been taped earlier, was aired on a screen to hundreds of supporters massed in Tripoli’s central Green Square.
Shouting in the rambling speech, he declared himself “a warrior” and proclaimed, “Libya wants glory, Libya wants to be at the pinnacle, at the pinnacle of the world.”
At times the camera panned out to show a towering gold-colored monument in front of the building, showing a fist crushing a fighter jet with an American flag on it – a view that also gave the strange image of Gadhafi speaking alone from behind a podium in the building’s delapidated lobby, with no audience in front of him.
“I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents … I will die as a martyr at the end,” he said. “I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired … when i do, everything will burn.”
He called on supporters to take to the streets to attack protesters. “You men and women who love Gadhafi …get out of your homes and fill the streets,” he said. “Leave your homes and attack them in their lairs … Starting tomorrow the cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them.”
“From tonight to tomorrow, all the young men should form local committees for popular security,” he said, telling them to wear a green armband to identify themselves. “The Libyan people and the popular revolution will control Libya.”
Tripoli has been torn by two nights of bloodshed as pro-Gadhafi militiamen cracked down on protesters. Across the country, at least 250 people have been killed in a week of unrest.