Libya: First Gunfire, Then Gadhafi Blows Kisses


Across Libya, support for Gadhafi has quickly dissipated with officials from his inner circle defecting, including one of his closest aides, his own cousin.

Gadhafi gave a rambling speech by phone Thursday to say that the revolt was the work of Osama bin Laden, that rebellious youth had been given hallucinogens and to complain that the queen of England has ruled longer than he has without being asked to step down.

Still on Gadhafi's side, however, are the paid mercenaries imported from impoverished African countries.

News network Al Jazeera showed footage of some mercenaries captured by the protesters where they turned a classroom into a makeshift detention center.

"They told us there was a free flight to Tripoli," a man from Chad said. "Instead, we landed here and they told us to join the battle to support Gadhafi, but we found ourselves in the middle of fighting."

Evacuation Nightmare

By car, on foot or evacuated by air, foreigners can't get out fast enough.

The evacuation of more than 100 U.S. citizens in Libya by ferry was delayed by rough waters at sea. The ferry departed for Malta today after two days at the port. According to the State Department, the estimated transit time is about eight hours and more than 300 passengers are on board, about half of whom are US citizens.

The first U.S. government-chartered evacuation flight will depart Tripoli today for Istanbul.

The British government had so many citizens in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, it sent the ship HMS Cumberland to pick them up.

Permission to make port came not from Libya's government but from protesters who have taken over.

"It's weird coming from a war zone to get on a British ship as an American," an American who hitched a ride told ABC News. "I never thought that I'd look at a Union Jack and say, "Wow ... really good to see the union Jack."

At a processing center on the Tunisian border, about 5,000 people -- most of them Egyptian laborers -- arrived overnight to escape the violence. Authorities told ABC News another 20,000 were on their way. The Tunisian army was building tent camps and feeding the people, and the plan has been to take them to a nearby airport and fly them quickly on planes provided by Egypt to Cairo. But the numbers were getting too big to keep ahead of this.

The workers told ABC News they had to leave because their jobs stopped and so did their pay and they fear for their lives. Most make $10 to $20 per day in construction and other basic trades, often fueled by the huge oil industry.

Many of the workers, talking about the frightening exoduses from Libya, described an obstacle course of check points on the 150 mile drive from Tripoli to the Tunisian border. Police confiscated their laptops, cameras and cell phones, claiming they didn't want bad pictures of Libya to go out of the country. One group described being robbed by little kids with Kalashnikovs. Others talked about being beaten by army personnel.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen convened an emergency meeting of the North Atlantic Council and released the following statement on the situation:

"What is happening in Libya is of great concern to all of us. It's a crisis in our immediate neighborhood. It affects the lives and safety of Libyan civilians and those of thousands of citizens from NATO member states," he said in the statement. "Many countries are now evacuating their citizens from Libya, clearly, a massive challenges."

But NATO has said it has no plans to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya -- a request many Libyans are making to prevent aerial bombardment.

ABC News' Kirit Radia, Aaron Katersky and Lara Setrakian contributed to this report.

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