Libya‘s official name is the Jamahiriya, or “state of the masses”, but 41 years after seizing power, a defiant Muammar Gaddafi still rules through secretive decision-making and as a family enterprise in which his sons play leading roles.
Now facing the worst unrest since the revolution, Gaddafi’s moves are as opaque as ever. Amid feverish speculation about the future, everything he has ever done suggests he will not relinquish power voluntarily. “We will all die on Libyan soil,” sources close to his family told the Saudi paper al-Sharq al-Awsat.
According to unconfirmed reports the repression in Benghazi in eastern Libya is being led by his son Khamis, the Russian-trained commander of an elite special forces unit. Another son, Saadi, is there too, with Abdullah al-Senussi, veteran head of military intelligence.
Last Friday Gaddafi appeared briefly in central Tripoli to cheers from supporters but has not spoken in public or left the heavily-guarded Bab al-Aziziya barracks in the centre of the capital – the target of a US bombing raid in 1986.
The crushing of protests in Benghazi and elsewhere bears the hallmark of his instinctive brutality when faced with challenges to his rule, analysts say.
“The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says protesters have seized control of some military bases and tanks,” the Houston Chronicle adds:
Appearing on Libyan state television early Monday morning, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi said: “We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet.”
On Twitter, American-based journalist Shahed Amanullah writes, “Libya pretty much declares war on protesters. Good luck with that one,” adding in a separate tweet, “He’s headed for a Mussolini moment.”