Muammar Gaddafi vowed to die in Libya as a martyr in an angry television address on Tuesday, as rebel troops said eastern regions had broken free from his rule in a burgeoning revolt.
“I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television, refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters clamoring in the streets for an end to his four decades at the helm.
“I shall remain here defiant,” said Gaddafi, speaking outside one of his residences, which was heavily damaged in a 1986 U.S. bombing raid that attempted to kill him.
Outside the building stood a monument of a giant fist crushing a U.S. warplane.
In a trademark rambling address, Gaddafi urged his supporters to take to the streets, saying protesters warranted the death sentence. He also promised a vague overhaul of government structures
Earlier, witnesses streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and mercenaries in an effort to stamp out the growing rebellion.
In the eastern city of Tobruk, a Reuters correspondent there said sporadic blasts could be heard, the latest sign that Gaddafi’s grip on the oil and gas exporting nation was weakening.
“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.
The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.
The U.N. refugee agency meanwhile urged Libya’s neighbors to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression and popular revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.
On the Libyan side of the border with Egypt, anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles welcomed visitors. One man held an upside-down picture of Gaddafi defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans,” a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.
Hundreds of Egyptians flowed in the opposite direction on tractors and trucks, taking with them harrowing tales of state violence and banditry.
In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.
“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.
Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.
“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.