TRIPOLI, (ANN) Libya — Embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi called on his supporters Friday to defend against the surging opposition, telling a crowd of thousands that “we are ready to triumph over the enemy.” Gadhafi, wearing a fur cap
and sunglasses, spoke from the ramparts of the Red Castle, a historic fort overlooking Tripoli’s central Green Square, to more than 1,000 of his supporters, who waved pictures of him and green flags.
Libyan state television showed Gadhafi pumping his fist in the air and telling the crowd to “retaliate against them, retaliate against them” and “prepare to defend the nation and defend the oil.”
“People love me. People love Gadhafi,” he said, according to an NBC News translation. “If the people don’t love Gadhafi, Gadhafi doesn’t deserve to live.”
Militias loyal to Gadhafi opened fire on protesters streaming out of mosques and marching across the Libyan capital to demand the regime’s ouster, witnesses said, reporting multiple deaths. In rebellious cities in the east, tens of thousands held rallies in support of the first Tripoli protests in days.
One witness reported seeing three protesters killed in the Souq al-Jomaa area near the square, and another reported a death in another district, Fashloum. The reports could not be immediately confirmed.
“There are all kind of bullets,” said one protester near Souq al-Jomaa, screaming in a telephone call to The Associated Press, with the rattle of shots audible in the background.
Fatima, an 18-year-old Briton in Tripoli on her first visit to the country to see relatives, said that some of her family members heard the protest and followed the noise.
“They said if it was peaceful, they would call for me to join. But then the shooting started and they all ran back into the house,” she told msnbc.com in a Skype chat. Fatima asked that her last name not be used out of concern for her family’s safety.
“We know of a family friend that was killed.”
The call for regime opponents to march from mosques after prayers was the first attempt to hold a major anti-Gadhafi rally in the capital since militiamen launched a bloody crackdown on marchers early in the week that left dozens dead.
SMS messages were sent around urging, “Let us make this Friday the Friday of liberation,” residents said. Two Facebook pages, one with more than 85,000 members, also called for mass demonstrations in the Libyan capital.