A son of Libya's longtime leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi went on national television early Monday morning to warn Libyans that the anti-government protests that have rocked the country for six days could lead to civil war or Western colonization.
The son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, appeared on Libyan state television after the unrest that had been focused on Benghazi spread to the capital city of Tripoli on Sunday.
"Libya is made up of tribes and clans and loyalties," he said, according to news reports. "There will be civil war."
He added, "The West and Europe and the United States will not accept the establishment of an Islamic emirate in Libya."
He offered some government reforms. "We will call for new media laws, civil rights, lift the stupid punishments," he said, according to Al Jazeera English. "We will have a constitution. . . . We will tomorrow create a new Libya. We can agree on a new national anthem, new flag, new Libya. Or be prepared for civil war."
Seif al-Islam Gadhafi said that his father, who has run Libya for 40 years, had not left the country, as had been rumored, and that the army was still backing Moammar Gadhafi. "We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet," the younger Gadhafi said.
Videos and reports coming out of Libya indicate that violent clashes between protesters and the authorities have resulted in numerous deaths. The U.S. State Department issued a statement Sunday:
The United States is gravely concerned with disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya. We are working to ascertain the facts, but we have received multiple credible reports that hundreds of people have been killed and injured in several days of unrest – and the full extent of the death toll is unknown due to the lack of access of international media and human rights organizations.
We have raised to a number of Libyan officials, including Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, our strong objections to the use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators. We reiterated to Libyan officials the importance of universal rights, including freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Libyan officials have stated their commitment to protecting and safeguarding the right of peaceful protest. We call upon the Libyan government to uphold that commitment, and hold accountable any security officer who does not act in accordance with that commitment.
The European Union also released a statement on Sunday:
The European Union is extremely concerned by the events unfolding in Libya and the reported deaths of a very high number of demonstrators. We condemn the repression against peaceful demonstrators and deplore the violence and the death of civilians. We express our sympathy to the families and friends of the victims.
The EU urges the authorities to exercise restraint and calm and to immediately refrain from further use of violence against peaceful demonstrators. Freedom of expression and the right to assemble, as provided for in particular by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are human rights and fundamental freedoms of every human being which must be respected and protected. The EU calls on the authorities to immediately cease the blocking of public access to the Internet and mobile phone networks. The EU also calls upon the authorities to allow media to work freely throughout the country.
The legitimate aspirations and demands of the people for reform must be addressed through open and meaningful Libyan-led dialogue.
The European Union expects full cooperation by the authorities in protecting EU citizens.
Seif al-Islam Gadhafi said in his address that the death toll was 84. But Human Rights Watch put the number of dead at 233.
Speaking on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Ambassador Susan Rice, the U.S. representative to the United Nations, noted that because journalists are unable to get into Libya it is difficult to determine the level of violence. "In Benghazi, in the coastal areas, we're very concerned about reports of security forces firing on peaceful protesters," she said, indicating that the State Department was relying on reports from such groups as Human Rights Watch.
The New York Times interviewed witnesses in Tripoli by telephone and reported that "protesters were converging on the capital's central Green Square and clashing with the heavily armed riot police. Young men armed themselves with chains around their knuckles, steel pipes and machetes."
A Tripoli resident told Reuters by telephone: "We're inside the house and the lights are out. There are gunshots in the street. That's what I hear, gunshots and people. I can't go outside."