Anti-government protesters demanding the ouster of longtime dictator Gadhafi carried placards and signs saying "Free Libya" and "Gadhafi - murderer, criminal," descended on the nation's capital today despite a government crackdown. The protests spread from the east, from Benghazi, where protesters overtook the city this weekend with some help from military forces.
Oil prices posted the biggest one-day jump in almost three years. Companies and countries prepared to evacuate their staff and citizens as the United States ordered embassy family members and all non-emergency personnel to depart Libya.
Italian news agency Ansa described chaos at the Tripoli airport, with hundreds of foreigners waiting to board planes to leave the country. One director of a French company reached at the airport said that "last night was terrible, shootings all over the place and a river of people in the streets even in the residential areas". He said he was trying to get about 40 employees and their families out "but this is a disaster, there are not enough planes," he told the news agency.
With landlines and communications cut and news media mostly blocked from accessing the country, it has been difficult to confirm reports of what's happening on the ground.
The escalating violence comes a day after Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, insisted in a televised message Sunday that his father is still in the country and in control and warned of a civil war if the protests aren't controlled.
He vowed that they would "fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet."
He also blamed the uprising on Islamic extremists and foreigners, claimed the media was exaggerating casualty figures, and offered his people a deal: constitutional reform and a new government in 48 hours or civil war.
"We are not Tunisia and Egypt," Seif al-Islam Gadhafi said. "Moammar Gadhafi, our leader, is leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are with him."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned the violence.
"The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly. Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed," Clinton said in a paper statement. "We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government."
President Obama has been briefed on the security situation a number of times today.
"We are analyzing the speech of Seif al-Islam Qadhafi to see what possibilities it contains for meaningful reform," a senior administration official said earlier today. "We will seek clarification from senior Libyan officials, as we continue to raise with them the need to avoid violence against peaceful protesters and respect universal rights."
Unlike Egypt, where 18 days of protests brought down the 30-year-long presidency of Hosni Mubarak, the protests in Libya have been particularly brutal.
Hospital officials and human rights groups say more than 200 people have been killed and thousands wounded since the unrest started about a week ago.
Protesters are calling for the ouster of Gadhafi, who has ruled the oil-rich country for more than 40 years.