Hundreds are dead in Libya following bloody clashes between anti-government protesters and Moammar Gadhafi's army. The demonstrations represented the strongest challenge to his regime in 40 years.
The Libyan dictator appeared on state television briefly Monday night to quell rumors that he had fled to Venezuela.
"I am here to show that I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela," Gadhafi told the nation from a car appearing to be in front of his residence.
Surrounded by a group of supporters dancing and chanting in favor of his regime, Gadhafi said he would have preferred to make the announcement from Tripoli's Green Square, but the rain deterred him.
What's the danger if Gadhafi falls? CBN News Terrorism Analyst Erick Stakelbeck gives more perspective, plus more on whether a Kohmeini-style leader could be rising in Egypt, on CBN Newswatch, Feb. 21, following this report.
Anti-Gov't Demonstrations Snowball
Meanwhile, in the capital city of Tripoli, protests gained strength - a sign the demonstrations are spreading after six days.
Military vehicles patrolled the city appealing to people over loudspeakers to stay in their homes and off the streets. Earlier, state television reported the military had "stormed the hideouts of saboteurs."
Periodic gunfire sent many young people attempting to congregate in the streets running for cover. Bodies of protesters killed by government forces could be seen on the streets, The Associated Press reported.
Snipers positioned themselves on rooftops as aircraft flew overhead, dispelling remarks by Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam that the airstrikes had targeted remote weapons warehouses and not fired on protesters in Tripoli and Benghazi. Conflicting eyewitness reports insisted that helicopter gun ships had opened fire on protesters in Benghazi.
More than 230 people have been killed in the first seven days of the uprising, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Crackdown Draws Ire of Global Community
Leaders of the international community, alarmed by the vicious government crackdown, have been trying to strike the right balance on how to respond.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters during a visit to Cairo that Gadhafi's "regime is using the most vicious forms of repression against people who want to see that country, which is one of the most closed and one of the most autocratic, make progress."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world was watching events in Libya "with alarm" and called on Gadhafi to "stop this unacceptable bloodshed."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he told Gadhafi in a phone call on Monday to "stop the violence against demonstrators" and respect their "human rights."
"This is unacceptable," Ban said. "This must stop immediately. This is a serious violation of international humanitarian law," Ban told reporters during a press conference at a Beverly Hills hotel.
Libyan Diplomats Call for Gadhafi's Resignation
At United Nations' headquarters in New York, Libyan diplomats called on Gadhafi to step down, echoing Libya's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi's plea that he end his 40-year rule.
Earlier, Dabbashi asked that a no-fly zone be imposed on the country to prevent additional arms and/or mercenaries from being flown into the country. He also urged the Security Council to get involved.
"This is in fact a declaration of war against the Libyan people," Dabbashi, flanked by a dozen Libyan diplomats, told reporters in New York. "The regime of Gadhafi has already started the genocide against the Libyan people," he said.
Libyan ambassador to the U.S. Ali Ajuli also called for Gadhafi to step down.
"There's no other solution," Ajuli said in an AP interview. "He should step down and give the chance for the people to make their future," he said.
Dissention in the Ranks
In an act of defiance, two Libyan fighter pilots have defected to Malta. The senior colonels said they were told to bomb protesters demonstrating in the streets, but they refused.
They fled from a base near Tripoli and flew low over Libyan airspace to avoid detection. Reuters reported that one of the pilots has asked for political asylum.
Cleric Issues 'Fatwa' Against Gadhafi
Meanwhile, a controversial Sunni Muslim cleric has issued a fatwa ordering the death of Gadhafi.
Speaking on Al Jazeera television, Yusuf al Qaradawi said any Libyan soldier who can shoot the embattled leader in the head should do so to "rid Libya of him."
"Save your countrymen from this brutal tyrant. It is wrong of you to stand by while he kills innocent people," Qaradawi was quoted on Twitter by Sultan al-Qassemi, a columnist with The National.
AP contributed to this report.