Libya crisis: Defiant Gaddafi pledges victory

Muammar Gaddafi appeared on Libyan TV making a defiant address to supporters

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has made his first public appearance in a week to rally his supporters.

In a speech apparently from a compound hit by coalition air strikes on Sunday, he urged "all Islamic armies" to join him, saying: "We will be victorious."

Fighting has continued between Col Gaddafi's forces and rebels. Witnesses say supplies are running low in the rebel-held town of Misrata.

The sound of allied strikes was once again heard around Tripoli overnight.

Coalition military personnel are enforcing a UN resolution to set up a no-fly zone and protect civilians.

In other developments:

  • US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told ABC News that Gaddafi allies have been reaching out to other nations to explore options for the future.
  • French, US, Turkish and British officials have been speaking to thrash out a new command structure for the coalition, with the US keen to hand over control.
  • Three journalists - two AFP reporters and a Getty Images photographer - detained by Gaddafi forces have been set free in Tripoli.
  • Muslim scholars from Cairo's al-Azhar institution have condemned Western military "aggression" in Libya, though they say they support the demands of the Libyan people.
'Creator of tomorrow'

Speaking in front of a crowd of about 200 late on Tuesday, Col Gaddafi said there was a "new crusader battle launched by crusader countries on Islam".

Analysis

Ajdabiya, like Misrata, has been effectively cut off. We've been unable to get in there for five days. They don't even have any telephone or internet so we can't get any word from that city.

It is the obvious place for the rebels to push forward to now they essentially control vast swathes of the east. But they're just simply not capable of doing it.

The military that defected are nowhere to be seen - they were out on the frontline for a few days but now there are no serious military vehicles, no tanks and no artillery.

Yesterday we saw arguments among the rebels about what their tactics should be.

Those who were encouraging some of the rebels to go forward to the frontline were accused of being collaborators because they were sending people into the line of fire. Shambolic is about as good as it gets.

"Long live Islam everywhere. All Islamic armies must take part in the battle, all free [people] must take party in the battle... We will be victorious in the end," he said in a short address carried on state TV.

"In the short term, we will beat them. In the long term, we will beat them."

He concluded his address by saying: "I do not fear storms that sweep the horizon, nor do I fear the planes that throw black destruction. I will resist, my house is here in my tent... I am the rightful owner, and the creator of tomorrow. I am here. I am here. I am here."

Western warplanes have flown more than 300 sorties over Libya in recent days and more than 162 Tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired.

After sunset on Tuesday, witnesses reported more anti-aircraft fire and the distant sound of explosions.

Before dawn on Wednesday, a series of explosions were also heard in the Libyan capital. The coalition has not confirmed any more air strikes.

Rebels divided

Away from Tripoli, Col Gaddafi's troops continue to be engaged in fierce fighting with rebels.

Misrata - the last rebel-held city in western Libya - has been under siege for weeks, and the situation is becoming increasingly desperate with supplies of food, water and medicine running low.

"The situation in the local hospital is disastrous," a doctor said.

"The doctors and medical teams are exhausted beyond human physical ability and some of them cannot reach the hospital because of tanks and snipers."

The BBC's Allan Little visited the scene of a coalition strike in Tripoli

Saadoun, a resident, told the BBC that there was a daily pattern to the attacks by government forces.

"The day starts with heavy shelling, and artillery fire through the city centre, and the residential areas," he said.

"The tanks will then pave the way for snipers to climb on the top of tall buildings in the city centre, and provide a good cover for the artillery, and for the tanks to enter, or to try to enter into the city centre."

There is a similar situation in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, where neither side appears capable of holding their ground.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Gaddafi aides 'exploring options'

The BBC's Ian Pannell, in eastern Libya, says some of the rebels envision pushing west, while others want to just take Ajdabiya and consolidate their hold on the east, hoping Libyans in other cities will rise up and liberate themselves.Defiant Gaddafi pledges victory

Fighting was also reported on Tuesday in Zintan, near the Tunisian border, and in Yafran, 130km south-west of Tripoli. Witnesses in the towns reported 10 deaths in each.

Also on Tuesday, two US airmen were rescued after ejecting from their F-15E Strike Eagle jet just before it crashed during allied operations in eastern Libya.

The plane appeared to suffer mechanical failure near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

The servicemen landed in rebel-held territory - one apparently taking refuge in a sheep enclosure before being welcomed by local people.

Map showing fighting in Libya

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