Video: Gadhafi faces war crimes investigation

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 3/3/2011 1:50:19 PM ET 2011-03-03T18:50:19

Libya's rebels were urgently training to use anti-aircraft weapons as Moammar Gadhafi's warplanes attacked two towns for a second day Thursday.

Witnesses told Reuters that jets had bombed the strategic oil town of Brega, about 460 miles east of Tripoli, and Ajdabiya, 50 miles further along the coat, where rebels were shoring up the town's defenses.

However the rebels claimed to have driven back Gadhafi's forces from Brega — which they took briefly Wednesday — toward Ras Lanuf, home to another major oil terminal and 375 miles east of Tripoli.

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The Libyan Human Rights League estimated Wednesday that the death toll in the conflict so far stood at 6,000, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

As international negotiations continued with the Arab League discussing a proposed peace plan by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the rebels called for the international community to take steps to prevent attacks by Gadhafi's air force.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama called on Gadhafi to leave power and said he has approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to pick up Egyptians on the Libya-Tunisia border.

At a White House news conference, Obama said Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and "he must leave."

Obama also said he had approved the use of U.S. military planes to help move Egyptians who fled to the Libya-Tunisia border to get home.

However, the Libyan dictator has warned foreign powers of "another Vietnam" if they intervene in the uprising against his 41-year rule.

And on Thursday Dutch officials revealed that three of its marines were being held by authorities in Libya after they were captured by Gadhafi's forces while trying to rescue stranded workers.

Dutch hostages?
Asked if the Netherlands, which is a member of NATO, considered the marines to be hostages, Dutch Defense Ministry spokesman Otte Beeksma told The Associated Press simply: "They are being held by Libyan authorities."

The trio were surrounded by armed men and captured Sunday after landing near Sirte in a Lynx helicopter that was on board the navy ship HMS Tromp, which is anchored off the Libyan coast to help evacuations.

Beeksma said that Dutch officials were in "intensive negotiations" with Gadhafi's government to secure the marines' release, he said, adding that they were "doing well under the circumstances."

Two people the marines were trying to rescue also were captured but have since been released and have left Libya.

Meantime, Gadhafi's militant response to anti-government protests could lead to international charges.

In The Hague, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Gadhafi and members of his inner circle could be investigated for alleged crimes committed against civilians by security forces since the uprising broke out in mid-February.

"We have identified some individuals in the de facto or former authority who have authority over the security forces who allegedly committed the crimes," Moreno-Ocampo said. "They are Moammmar Gadhafi, his inner circle including some of his sons, who had this de facto authority."

Video: Libyan warplanes strike rebel-held oil port (on this page)

In Ajdabiya, home to a military arms dump, rebel fighters were trying to work out how to use more advanced weapons.

A rebel officer said Thursday that a rebel position in Ajdabiya was bombed again Thursday.

At one entrance to the town, rebels worked through the night to consolidate defenses, adding rocket launchers, anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft guns. They also manned three tanks.

One rebel fighter said he had four days training in how to use an anti-aircraft gun.

"Praise God we have weapons," said another fighter, Drees Abdulwahid, 42, smiling and raising both hands to the sky.

Bombs 'just to frighten' rebels
Others struggled to load the belts of 10-inch long bullets into the weapon. One young man staggered under the weight of the belt.

Gadhafi's warplanes also bombed Brega in attacks that his son Saif al-Islam told the U.K.'s Sky News were designed "just to frighten them to go away ... not to kill them."

"I'm talking about the harbor and the oil refinery there. Nobody would allow the militia to control Brega. It's like allowing someone to control Rotterdam harbor in Holland," he said.

Opposition activists called for a no-fly zone, echoing a demand by Libya's deputy U.N. envoy, who now opposes Gadhafi.

"Bring Bush! Make a no-fly zone, bomb the planes," shouted soldier-turned-rebel Nasr Ali, referring to a no-fly zone imposed on Iraq in 1991 by then President George Bush.

In Benghazi, the rebel National Libyan Council also called for air strikes, but said it was opposed to foreign troops on the ground.

The U.S. government is cautious about imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, stressing the diplomatic and military risks involved, but has moved warships into the Mediterranean.

"Let's just call a spade a spade: A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a congressional panel.

The Pentagon could get the job done if ordered by the president, he said, but noted that an attack would require more air power than a single U.S. aircraft carrier, which typically carries about 75 planes.

As the conflict continued, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said a peace plan for Libya from Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was under consideration.

"We have been informed of President Chavez's plan but it is still under consideration," Moussa told Reuters by telephone on Thursday.

Story: Chavez: I won't condemn 'my friend' Gadhafi

When asked if Gadhafi had accepted the plan, Moussa said: "I don't know, how am I supposed to know that?" When asked if he had agreed to the Chavez plan, Moussa said: "No."

Oil prices fell on news of the mediation plan. Brent crude fell more than $3 as investors eyed a possible deal brokered by OPEC-member Venezuela. Chavez is a close friend of Gaddafi. The revolt has knocked out nearly 50 percent of Libya's 1.6 million barrels per day output. Oil is the bedrock of the country's economy.

Al-Jazeera TV news reported that Gadhafi had accepted Chavez's deal. However, Hoda Abdel-Hamid, an Al-Jazeera correspondent in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, said the opposition was unlikely to accept any plan approved by Gadhafi.

"The only mediation they will consider is to find an exit strategy for Gadhafi and his family and all his close aides. They said there is no time anymore for dialogue. Mediation, unless it's with an exit strategy, will be quite difficult," he said.

Mass exodus of migrants
Meanwhile, Italy said it was preparing for a potential mass exodus of migrants escaping turmoil in North Africa after a rise in flows of illegal immigrants from Tunisia, the initial destination for tens of thousands who have fled violence in Libya.

Save The Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres said they were struggling to get medicines and care to Libya's needy, with gunmen blocking roads and civilians too scared to seek help.

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Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence agencies reported that Gadhafi's forces had stepped up security around Libya's principal remaining stockpile of agents used in chemical weapons.

But U.S. agencies are unsure they know where all of the Libyan chemical stockpiles are located, officials said.

By the same token, international experts say that years ago, Libya destroyed most if not all of the weapons systems which would enable troops to fire chemical agents in combat. This means that even if some of the agents were pilfered, it would be hard for those who stole them to use them.

An official familiar with U.S. government analyses said Wednesday Washington had indications that in recent days security around the main chemicals cache had been "upgraded." Officials declined to say how the U.S. knows security had been improved.

Video: Defiant or delusional, Gadhafi holds on (on this page)

International watchdogs said last month that Libya retained 9.5 tons of deadly mustard gas but lacked delivery systems.

One U.S. official said it was "not entirely clear that the Libyan government is in full control of all the remaining stockpiles."

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Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an international watchdog based in the Netherlands, said his agency could not confirm whether the security of Libya's remaining chemicals stockpile had recently been bolstered.

"We have seen nothing to indicate that security has changed," Luhan told Reuters, adding that his agency's mandate "is inspection and verification rather than security, which is the responsibility of the government concerned."

Video: Engel: Tripoli the ‘eye of the storm’ (on this page)

Last month the OPCW reported that, in 2004, Libya destroyed its inventory of aerial bombs that could be used to deliver chemical agents.

It also said that Gadhafi's government last year had destroyed a large amount of mustard gas — about 54 percent of its stockpile — and agreed to destroy the rest by this May.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Libya's uprising against Gadhafi

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  1. People gathering in Benghazi, Libya in mid-February of 2011 as protest against the rule of Moammar Gadhafi grew, in part triggered by the arrest of human rights activist Fethi Tarbel. EDITOR'S NOTE: The content, date and location of this image could not be independently verified. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Buildings at the entrance to a security forces compound burn in Benghazi, Feb. 21, 2011. Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi, claiming control of the country's second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli's main square for the first time. (Alaguri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi speaks on state television. Feb. 22, and signalled his defiance over a mounting revolt against his 41-year rule. (Libya TV via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Libyan U.N. ambassador Shalgham is embraced by Dabbashi, Libya's deputy U.N. Ambassador after denouncing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for the first time during a Security Council meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on Feb. 25. Shalgam, a longtime friend and member of Gadhafi's inner circle, had previously refused to denounce Gadhafi. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Thousands of Libyans gather for the Muslim Friday prayers outside the courthouse in the eastern city of Benghazi on Feb. 25, 2011. Perhaps 8,000 people gathered for the midday prayers with a local imam, who delivered his sermon alongside the coffins of three men killed in the violent uprising that routed Gadhafi loyalists from Benghazi. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Rebels hold a young man at gunpoint, who they accuse of being a loyalist to Gadhafi, between the towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf, March 3, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pro-Gadhafi soldiers and supporters gather in Green Square in Tripoli, March 6, 2011. Thousands of Moammar Gadhafi's supporters poured into the streets of Tripoli, waving flags and firing their guns in the air in the Libyan leader's main stronghold, claiming overnight military successes. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Rebel fighters jump away from shrapnel during heavy shelling by forces loyal to Gadhafi near Bin Jawad, March 6. Rebels in east Libya regrouped and advanced on Bin Jawad after Gadhafi forces ambushed rebel fighters and ejected them from the town earlier in the day. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Libyan rebel fighters take cover as a bomb dropped by an airforce fighter jet explodes near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 7, 2011. (Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Libyan rebels fire rockets at government troops on the frontline. March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf. The rebels pushed back government troops westward towards Ben Jawat. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Libyan government soldiers aboard tanks at the west gate of the town Ajdabiyah March 16, 2011. Libya's army pounded an opposition-held city in the country's west and battled fighters trying to block its advance on a rebel bastion in the east amid flagging diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed. EDITOR'S NOTE: Picture taken on a government guided tour. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Libyan people in Benghazi celebrate after the United Nations Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, March 18. Thousands of Libyans erupted in cheers as the news flashed on a giant screen in besieged Benghazi late March 17. After weeks of discussion, the UN Security Council banned flights in Libya's airspace and authorized "all necessary means" to implement the ban, triggering intervention by individual countries and organizations like NATO. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A picture combo shows a Libyan jet bomber crashing after being apparently shot down in Benghazi on March 19, 2011 as the Libyan rebel stronghold came under attack. Air strikes and sustained shelling of the city's south sent thick smoke into the sky. (Patrick Baz / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Residents of Benghazi flee the city along the road toward Tobruk, in an attempt to escape fighting in their city, March 19, 2011. Gaddafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi, a city of 670,000 people, in an apparent attempt to pre-empt Western military intervention expected after a meeting of Western and Arab leaders in Paris. (Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Gadhafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A rebel fighter carries his weapon outside the northeastern Libyan town of Ajdabiyah, March 21, 2011. A wave of air strikes hit Gaddafi's troops around Ajdabiyah, a strategic town in the barren, scrub of eastern Libya that rebels aim to retake and where their fighters said they need more help. (Finbarr O'reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A Libyan rebel prays next to his gun on the frontline of the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, March 21, 2011. The international military intervention in Libya is likely to last "a while," a top French official said, echoing Moammar Gadhafi's warning of a long war ahead as rebels, energized by the strikes on their opponents. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Libyan rebels retreat as mortars from Gadhafi's forces are fired on them near the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, March 22, 2011. Coalition forces bombarded Libya for a third straight night, targeting the air defenses and forces of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, stopping his advances and handing some momentum back to the rebels, who were on the verge of defeat. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A Libyan man is comforted by hospital staff as he reacts after identifying his killed brother in the morgue of the Jalaa hospital in Benghazi, March 22, 2011. His brother was killed earlier in fighting around the city of Ajdabiya. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Volunteer fighters training at a rebel army training camp in Benghazi, March 29, 2011. Pro-government forces intensified their attacks on Libyan rebels, driving them back over ground they had taken in recent days. The rebels had reached Nawfaliya, but pulled back to Bin Jawad. (Manu Brabo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Smoke billows as seven explosions were reported in the tightly-guarded residence of leader Moammar Gadhafi and military targets in the suburb of Tajura. Two explosions also rocked the Libyan capital Tripoli on March 29, 2011, as NATO-led coalition aircraft had been seen in the skies over the capital. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A Libyan rebel urges people to leave, as shelling from Gadhafi's forces started landing on the frontline outside of Bin Jawaad, 93 miles east of Sirte, March 29, 2011. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. General Abdel-Fattah Younis, former interior minister in the Gadhafi regime who defected in the early days of the uprising, is greeted by Libyan rebels at the front line near Brega, April 1, 2011. (Altaf Qadri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Libyan men show the V-sign for victory as they stand on the deck of a Turkish ship arriving from Misrata to the port of Benghazi who were evacuated along with others the injured in the fighting between rebel and Gadhafi forces, April 03, 2011. The Turkish vessel took hundreds of people wounded in the Libyan uprising for treatment in Turkey from the two cities of Misrata and Benghazi. (Mahmud Hams / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A wounded prisoner from Gadhafi's forces is transported in the back of a pickup truck by rebels, on the way to a hospital for treatment, half way between Brega and Ajdabiya, April 9, 2011. Rebels say they took two prisoners after a clash with soldiers near Brega's university outside the government-controlled oil facilities, marking a noticeable advance by rebels. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. In this image taken from TV, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi makes a pubic appearance in Tripoli, April 14 2011. Gadhafi defiantly waved at his supporters while being driven around Tripoli while standing up through the sunroof of a car. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A rebel fighter celebrates as his comrades fire a rocket barrage toward the positions of government troops April 14, 2011, west of Ajdabiyah. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Gadhafi supporters hold copies of his portrait as they gather at the Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, April 15, 2011. Rebels held much of eastern Libya by mid-April, while Gadhafi controlled the west, with the front line shifting back and forth in the middle. (Pier Paolo Cito / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Doctors work on a baby who suffered cuts from shrapnel that blasted through the window of his home during fighting in the besieged city of Misrata, April 18, 2011. Thousands of civilians are trapped in Misrata as fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels there. The Libyan government has come under international criticism for using heavy weapons and artillery in its assault on Misrata. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. MISRATA, LIBYA - APRIL 20: Libyan rebel fighters discuss how to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from the next room during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi April 20, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building that fought back instead of surrendering, firing on the rebels in the building and seriously wounding two of them during the standoff. Fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels ensconced there. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images) (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Libyan rebel fighters carry out a comrade wounded during an effort to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from a building during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Gaddafi, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building where they fought back instead of surrendering. Two rebels were seriously wounded during the standoff. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Rebels tread carefully as they prepare to invade a house where soldiers from the pro-government forces had their base in the Zwabi area of Misrata on April 24, 2011. (Andre Liohn / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Libyans inspect damage and an unexploded missile at the Gadhafi family compound in a residential area of Tripoli, May 1, 2011. Gadhafi escaped a NATO missile strike in Tripoli that killed one of his sons and three young grandchildren. EDITOR'S NOTE: Photo taken on a government guided tour. (Darko Bandic / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Moammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, center, leaves the funeral of his brother Saif Al-Arab Gadhafi, who was killed during air strikes by coalition forces, at the El Hani cemetery in Tripoli, May 2, 2011. Crowds chanting Gadhafi's name gathered in Tripoli for the funeral of his son and three grandchildren. (Louafi Larbi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Fleeing migrants and Libyans are seen on board an International Organization of Migration ship leaving the port of Misrata on May 4, 2011, as Gadhafi forces continued to pound the city. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Libyan men watch as the main fuel depot in Libya's third largest city, Misrata, burns following a bombing by Gadhafi's forces on May 7, 2011. Libyan regime forces shelled fuel depots in Misrata and dropped mines into its harbor using helicopters bearing the Red Cross emblem, rebels said as they braced for a ground assault. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Libyan rebels celebrate near the airport of Misrata on May 11, 2011 after capturing the city's strategic airport following a fierce battle with Moammar Gadhafi's troops -- their first significant advance in weeks. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Women react after a protest against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Benghazi, Libya, on May 16, 2011. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, announced that he would seek arrest warrants against the leader of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the country's intelligence chief on charges of crimes against humanity. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Tripoli street in Misrata is seen from the terrace of a building used by Gadhafi’s snipers before the rebels took control of the area on May 22, 2011. The weeks-long siege of the city ended in mid-May and Tripoli Street was the site of the fiercest fighting in the battle and a turnin point in the war. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A rebel fighter gives water to a soldier loyal to Gadhafi after he was wounded and then captured near the front line, west of Misrata on May 23, 2011. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. An uncle, left, prays over the body of one and a half year-old Mohsen Ali al-Sheikh during a washing ritual during the funeral at his family's house in Misrata, May 27, 2011. The child was killed by a gunshot during clashes between rebels and pro-Gadhafi forces earlier in the day. (Wissam Saleh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. The body of a drowned refugee floats near a capsized ship which was transporting an estimated 850 refugees from Libya, approximately 22 miles north of the Tunisian islands of Kerkennah, June 4, 2011. At least 578 survived the sinking. (Lindsay Mackenzie / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. A photograph taken from a video by a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows Mutassem Gadhafi, son of Moammar Gadhafi, drinking water and smoking a cigarette following his capture and shortly before his death, in Sirte, Oct. 20, 2011. (- / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A photograph taken from mobile phone video of a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows the capture of Moammar Gadhafi in Sirte on Oct. 20, 2011. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. This image provided by the Libyan Youth Group on Nov. 19, 2011, shows Seif al-Islam Gadhafi after he was captured near the Niger border with Libya. Moammar Gadhafi's son, the only wanted member of the ousted ruling family to remain at large, was captured as he traveled with aides in a convoy in Libya's southern desert. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: A photo said to show people gathering during recent days' unrest in Benghazi, Libya. The content, date and location of the image could not be independently verified.
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    Above: Slideshow (81) Conflict in Libya
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    Slideshow (34) Moammar Gadhafi through the years

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