TOBRUK, Libya — Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, vowing to "die as a martyr," exhorted loyalists Tuesday to help him crush a rebellion even as top-level defections splintered the regime. New atrocity allegations emerged, including an effort to bury alive scores of protesters and soldiers who refused to shoot civilians.
Libya's interior minister, top military officers and senior diplomats joined a growing chorus of former officials calling for Gadhafi's overthrow over what residents described as wholesale shootings of protesters and bystanders in the capital, Tripoli, by security forces and mercenaries backed by tanks and aircraft.
"I hereby announce that I have abandoned all my duties to respond to the February 17 revolution," Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al Abidi declared in an interview with Al Jazeera. "I urge the Libyan army to ... serve the people and support the February 17 revolution."
The seventh day of the insurrection against the Middle East's longest ruling dictator was fraught with confusion and rumors. Communications to the outside world remained restricted to incoming calls, and Internet service was intermittent.
Residents in the eastern city of Benghazi, and a drive by a McClatchy correspondent from the Egyptian border to the port city of Tobruk, indicated that all of Libya's eastern wing along the Gulf of Sidra was controlled by tribal leaders, armed citizens and police and troops in revolt against the regime.
Hundreds of people are believed to have died and thousands injured in the insurrection, by far the most violent of the uprisings ignited in the oil-rich region by the December self-immolation of a jobless Tunisian man that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. The revolts also have inspired protests against the rulers of Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Morocco and Algeria, mostly by young people demanding democratic reforms and an end to corruption, unemployment and poverty.
Gadhafi made it clear that he's not yielding his 42-year grip on power, gesturing wildly and glaring angrily in a podium-pounding speech in which he declared, "I am a fighter, a revolutionary from the tents . . . I will die a martyr at the end."
He blamed the uprising on misguided young people who were provided drugs and cash by a "small, sick group" of "bearded men" — an apparent reference to Muslim extremists — and Libyan exiles.