On September 1, 1969, a military academy graduate from the town of Sirte overthrew Libya’s septuagenarian king in a bloodless military coup while the leader was away getting medical treatment. Moammar Gaddafi was just 27.
Forty-two years later, Gaddafi is battling for control of a country that is almost entirely out of his control, reportedly from the desert town of Bani Walid outside Tripoli. On Thursday, a defiant message said to be from the fugitive leader was broadcast on radio, the first sign of Gaddafi since a radio speech on Aug. 24 after the rebels overran Tripoli. Listen to the audio below, via reporter Zaid Benjamin:
In the message, which was relayed on the Syrian-based Al-Rai TV, Gaddafi was quoted as accusing rebels of using mercenaries to help their cause, and saying that traitors should be killed, the Associated Press reported.
“We won't surrender again; we are not women... let this be a long fight, and let Libya be on fire,” the message said.
The message also said that loyalists should “continue fighting, even if you don’t hear my voice,” a possible indication that the leader might be dead or could going underground for good.
In Sirte, Gaddafi’s loyalists are hanging on by a thread with no electricity or water service, and the country’s rebel leadership gave them another week to surrender or face a military onslaught.
Rebel leaders also met in in Paris on Thursday with representatives of 60 nations, including longtime Gaddafi allies Russia and China, to plan for the rebuilding of Libya under a new government. Hours before the meetings started, Russia recognized the rebels as Libya’s interim leadership.