Muammar Qaddafi may be losing his grip on Libya. Armed with weapons from security warehouses, anti-regime forces in eastern Libya are taking control of the region. In Tripoli, the battle rages on. Witnesses told Al Jazeera that at least 61 people were killed in the capital during yesterday’s brutal takedown, in which fighter jets bombed portions of the city. Last night, Khalid Kaim, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, denied reports that foreign mercenaries were working in Libya, but residents report that what appear to be “battalions of foreign fighters” are being helicoptered to different parts of the city. An influential Muslim cleric named Yusuf al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa yesterday through Al Jazeera saying, “Whoever in the Libyan army is able to shoot a bullet at Mr. Qaddafi should do so.” Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, also urged Libyan soldiers “not to obey orders to strike at your own people,” and urged Libyan ambassadors to disassociate themselves from Qaddafi.
Qaddafi lost support on multiple fronts yesterday. Government security forces withdrew to their bases in the east. And in Baida, which is close to the Egyptian border, local police fired at the army’s second brigade after it fired live rounds at protesters.
Although Qaddafi is the latest Arab leader under threat from a popular uprising, this is the first time demonstrators have destabilized a major oil-producing state. Libya, Africa’s third-largest oil producer, pumps out around 1.6 million barrels of oil per day and is responsible for roughly 2 percent of global demand. Oil prices rose 9 percent in one day as analysts anxiously monitored the situation. If unrest spreads beyond Libya to other oil-rich countries, industry experts warn that gas prices could hit $5 a gallon by peak summer driving season. Libya’s oil infrastructure is located in the desert far away from the violence happening in city centers. But analysts worry that refineries and loading platforms could become collateral damage. Analyst Peter Zeihan told Al Jazeera, “Nothing explodes like an oil refinery, and rioters tend to like to burn things.”
Qaddafi’s Grip Falters as His Forces Take On Protesters [NYT]
Top Sunni cleric says army should kill Kadhafi [AFP via Yahoo]
Fresh violence rages in Libya [Al Jazeera English]