Gadhafi Accuses Protesters of Bin Laden Links, Says U.S. May Use 'Qaida Alibi' to Intervene

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Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday accused residents of Az-Zawiyah, a town west of the capital hit by fierce fighting between his forces and rebels, of being linked to Osama bin Laden, warning that the U.S. might intervene in Libya "under the alibi of combating al-Qaida."

In what was said to be a live audio feed on state television, Gadhafi also accused the protesters of being on drugs.

"You in Zawiyah turn to Bin Laden," he said. "They give you drugs."

This was the embattled leader's third television appearance since protests broke out against his 41-year-old rule on February 15.

Addressing the older generation, Gadhafi said al-Qaida was behind the problem facing Libya, while the youth were on drugs and misbehaving.

"It is obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaida," he said. "Those armed youngsters, our children, are incited by people who are wanted by America and the Western world.

"Those inciting are very few in numbers and we have to capture them. Others have to stay at home. They have guns, they feel trigger happy and they shoot especially when they are stoned with drugs."

The "situation is different from Egypt or Tunisia ... Here the authority is in your hands, the people's hands. You can change authority any way you wish. It's your call. You are the elderly, the head of the tribes, the professors."

"They have been brainwashing the kids in this area and telling them to misbehave. These are the ones who are under Bin Laden's influence and authority, under the influence of drugs."

On Tuesday, in a defiant, sometimes rambling speech on television, Gadhafi vowed to remain in Libya as head of its revolution, saying he would die as a martyr in the land of his ancestors and fight to the "last drop" of his blood.

He ordered the army and police to crush the popular uprising against his iron-fisted four-decade rule that has left hundreds dead.

Residents of Libya's dissident-held east vowed on Thursday to march on Tripoli to oust the veteran leader.

State news agency Jana said three "terrorists" attacked a security forces post in Az-Zawiyah and slit the throats of three policemen on Thursday, amid reports of heavy fighting in the town.

Az-Zawiyah lies on the Mediterranean, 50 kilometers west of Tripoli. Fighting around the capital intensified after much of the country's east has reportedly fallen to rebels.

Al-Jazeera television said there were fierce clashes between pro- and anti-government forces for control of the town and that there had been a heavy, but indeterminate number of casualties.

It quoted witnesses as saying an army unit led by Gadhafi ally Naji Shifsha blasted the minaret of a mosque being occupied by protesters in Az-Zawiyah.

The Qatar-based channel also quoted witnesses as saying pro-Gadhafi forces had attacked Sabratha, which lies between Az-Zawiyah and the capital; Misrata, 200 kilometers east of Tripoli and Sabha, about 650 kilometers to the south.

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