Fear stalks Tripoli, celebrations in Libya’s east

Thousands of Libyans celebrated the liberation of the eastern city of Benghazi from the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, who was reported to have sent a plane to bomb them on Wednesday as he clung to power.

The crew bailed out of the aircraft after it took off from the capital Tripoli. It then came down south-west of Benghazi, Libya’s Quryna newspaper cited a military source as saying, averting a fresh bloodshed in almost a week of violence.

Tripoli, along with western Libya, is still under Gaddafi’s control and people there said they were too afraid of pro-government militia to go out after Gaddafi threatened violence against protesters in a speech on Tuesday night.

As many as 1,000 people have been killed in since the revolt began around a week ago, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said as world leaders scrambled to evacuate their citizens and disagreed on how to end the turmoil.

Also abandoning Gaddafi’s realm have been officials and diplomats previously loyal to the veteran leader. A small Libyan airliner turned away from Malta on Wednesday was carrying a daughter of Gaddafi, Al Jazeera said from the European island.