Situation tense in Libya following violence

Situation tense in Libya following violence

Foreign nationals are being urged to leave Libya as security forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi continue to battle protestors set on his overthrow.

Hundreds are feared dead following often violent clashes, with the much of the east of the country in protestors’ hands.

Britain has advised its citizens to leave where possible – however, many flights out of the country have been cancelled.

British Airways and BMI both cancelled all flights today.

The majority of airport offices in Tripoli are also closed, with those seeking flights advised to travel to the airport carrying sufficient cash to buy tickets.

Government officials have virtually shutdown the internet and phone networks, making internal communication in the country – and the purchase of tickets - difficult.

Col Muammar Gaddafi refused to stand down when appearing on television earlier – his first major speech since demonstrations began.

In the address he said the protestors had damaged the image of the country, while insisting the whole world looked up to Libya.

He said he would not leave the country and would “die a martyr”.

Unrest

As the crisis continues Egypt has boosted its military presence near the border with Libya and set up field hospitals, as thousands of its nationals return.

Meanwhile, China has urged the north African country to ensure the safety of its citizens after reports that hundreds of Chinese construction workers in Ajdabiya were forced to flee an armed attack.

However, it appears authorities are presently unable able to offer protection of any kind, with running battles spreading to the capital overnight.

Three Turkish ships have been sent to Benghazi to evacuate about 3,000 nationals.

Italy is to send three C-130 air force planes to evacuate its citizens. The former colonial power has about 1,500 nationals resident in Libya.

Oil prices are also expected to rise, with Royal Dutch Shell evacuating all expatriate staff.

Eni and Total are also evacuating staff, while Spain’s Repsol is suspending operations.

International Response

The UN Security Council is currently holding an informal closed session to discuss the crisis.

The Arab League will also hold an emergency session.

Both are reacting to reports embattled Col Gaddafi ordered the bombing of protestors by the Libyan air force.

The action was condemned as a possible crime against humanity by international observers.