Updated from 4:31 p.m. EST. with comments from U.S. President Barack Obama.
NEW YORK (
) -- Many Libyans, fearing for their lives, are fleeing the country after long-time leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi delivered a televised speech on Tuesday in which he called on his supporters to track down and kill protesters who continue to demand his ouster.
Libyans in Tobruk gather to protest Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year reign over the nation on Wednesday.
By Tuesday night,
and converged in Tripoli's central Green Square, wearing green armbands as Gadhafi had directed. Government supporters, many wielding weapons, drove protesters from the streets with violence, and residents described a state of terror.
"All the government buildings in Tripoli are burned down,"
The New York Times
quoted a Tripoli resident as saying. "But the mercenaries, they have weapons. The Libyans don't have weapons, they will kill you."
Gadhafi's grip on the capital remained through Wednesday. But
reported that a few cities, including Benghazi and Tobruk, were under the control of protesters.
The Mediterranean port city of Benghazi plans to run itself under "people's committees,"
reports, saying protesters have fought back and thrown off government control.
Hossam Ibrahim Sherif, director of the Benghazi city health center, said about 320 people had been killed in the city over the past week during the violent clashes with Gadhafi loyalists.
Col. Gadhafi's son, Saif Al Islam Gadhafi, appeared on state television on Wednesday evening to announce that everything in Libya was "normal",
"The ports, schools and airports are all open," he said. "The problem lies in the eastern regions. Life is normal. Brothers, Libyans should come together in this national battle."
However, media reports out of Tripoli claimed that tanks and Gadhafi supporters with guns were seen on the streets in the Tajura district of the captial on Wednesday.
"Lots of people are afraid to leave their homes in Tripoli and pro-Gadhafi gunmen are roaming around threatening any people who gather in groups," witness Marwan Mohammed told
as he crossed Libya's western border into Tunisia.
Government officials sent out a text message to Libyan workers and civilians on Wednesday morning telling them to return to their jobs, but many were too afraid to leave their homes due to the dangers of travel, the
Fighting broke out on Tuesday night in Sabratha, a town located 50 miles west of Tripoli, the
reported, citing Libyan civilians. Thousands of Gadhafi supporters were deployed there,
"The revolutionary committees are trying to kill everyone who is against Gadhafi," a man from Sabratha told the
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that it is likely that nearly 1,000 Libyan civilian deaths have occurred during the clashes between Gadhafi supporters and anti-government protesters.
"We believe that estimates of about 1,000 are credible," Frattini said on Wednesday.
Frattini also said he was worried that violence there could spark Islamic extremism.
Gadhafi's actions have now spurred widespread concern over the violence and terror being used by the government against the civilian protesters.
Libyan army soldiers and protesters stand over an army van shouting slogans against Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration in Tobruk, Libya, on Wednesday.
The United States is calling for an end of the violence against protesters. U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the ongoing crisis in Libya late Wednesday afternoon in a televised statement.
He vowed that leaders from around the world will intensify their consultation regarding the mounting violence in Libya, and that Gadhafi will be held accountable for his actions.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke in a televised news conference on Wednesday afternoon to condemn the violence that dictator Gadhafi has unleashed on his citizens.
"We deeply regret the loss of life that has already occurred," Clinton said in her address. "We have joined with the international community to speak with one voice. There is no doubt in my mind that this is now the moment for the international community to act together."
Clinton said that the United States is working closely with leaders of nations around the world to come up with the best approach to help the people of Libya and send a clear message to the Libyan government that the use of violence is unacceptable.
She also urged any Americans in Libya to depart the nation immediately as the situation in Libya remains fluid and uncertain.
United Nations' human rights chief Navi Pillay called for the "immediate cessation of grave human rights violations committed by Libyan authorities" on Tuesday, after media reports out of Libya claimed machine guns, snipers and combat jets were being used against protesters.
"The callousness with which Libyan authorities and their hired guns are reportedly shooting live rounds of ammunition at peaceful protesters is unconscionable," she said, according to a report from
Former Libyan ambassador Ali Al Essawi was quoted by
on Tuesday as saying that fighter jets had been used by the government to bomb civilians.
He said the government has hired foreigners to fight the protesters in the streets. He called the violence "a massacre" and urged the UN to restrict the Libyan airspace in order to "protect the people."
The ongoing violence and terror has fostered
, as Libyan oil output has diminished drastically. As much as a quarter of Libyan's oil output has been shut down because of the unrest,
estimated on Wednesday.
after Libya declared force majeure on its oil exports, marking the first major impact to global oil supply from the political turmoil that has spread through the Middle East.
Brent crude climbed above the $106 mark on Tuesday and U.S. crude oil futures spike from an open at $90 to above $94, reaching as high as $98 during Tuesday trading.
Light sweet crude oil for April delivery was
rising about 3.5%, or $3.50, to $98.92 during midday trading Wednesday
. Oil traded as a high as $99.10 Wednesday as chaos continued to rock Libya and five major oil and gas companies wound down production in the country.
said it is considering a full production shutdown in Libya, while
have also said their output could either slow down or stop altogether,
"We are evaluating the situation. We cannot say at the moment how production is developing exactly," OMV CEO Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer said in a news conference. "It is going down sharply. We do not rule out that it could come to a complete stop for a period of time."
Libya outputs a total of 1.6 million barrels of high-quality oil per day, which accounts for 2% of world output. More than 8% of Libya's oil production has been shut down due to the civil uprising and political turmoil, the International Energy Agency said Monday.
added that information regarding Libya's oil output can be conflicting because companies specify their share of production and usually don't provide overall supply at fields they operate in.
Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.
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