Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, facing intense pressure on his regime from all sides, appeared briefly on state TV as the international community increasingly condemned the bloody crackdown on anti-government protests.
The appearance lasted mere seconds, and Qaddafi said only that he was in the capitol of Tripoli, contrary to rumors that he had left the country.
"I am here to show that I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Don't believe those misleading dog stations," Gadhafi said. The video clip and comments were unusual for the mercurial leader, who is known for rambling speeches that often last hours.
It is difficult to confirm the information trickling out of the Northern African nation, all but closed off to the world at this point, but there have been reports that more than 200 people were killed today in the capital Tripoli alone.
Doctors and human rights groups have put the death toll from the second city of Benghazi at 200-300 in the past several days of rioting.
There are reports that airstrikes have been used on crowds, and that mercenaries from other African countries have been employed and have carried out drive-by shootings upon crowds.
Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics said, “The fact that Qaddafi has used massive force -- I mean, you’re talking about missiles, about anti-aircraft fire -- it tells me the regime itself feels that it is under threat.
"And it is under threat. And that is why you are seeing the use of horrible brute force and that’s why you are seeing the spread of unrest.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement Monday "strongly condemning the violence in Libya," adding that "the government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal right of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly. Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed."
A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon used similarly harsh words in a statement issued Monday evening, saying Ban was "outraged" at reports that Libyan forcers were firing on protesters.
"Such attacks against civilians, if confirmed, would constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law and would be condemned by the Secretary-General in the strongest terms," the statement read.
And news broke Monday night that the Security Council planned to hold a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning on the situation in Libya.
Not everyone in the Qaddafi regime is comfortable with this use of force. Two senior air force colonels defected, with their fighter jets, to Malta on Monday. Reportedly they had been asked to fire upon protestors in Benghazi but fled the country instead.
Some diplomats have bailed as well. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Ibrahim Dabbashi spoke publicly Monday, urging Qaddafi to step down.
But Qaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, spoke Sunday on Libyan TV, saying, "Our moral is high."
“The leader, Muammar Qaddafi, is here leading the battle in Tripoli. We are with him, the armed forces are with him, and there are tens of thousands (of supporters) flocking to Tripoli. We shall not abandon Libya. We shall fight to the last man, last woman, last bullet.”
Al-Qaddafi played the Islamist card, warning that if the protests continue it would lead to a civil war which would turn Libya into Islamic Emirate.
And he played the oil card, too.
“There will be bloodshed. Rivers of blood will flow. You will migrate from Libya because the oil will stop, the oil companies will leave Libya tomorrow, the foreigners will leave Libya, the oil installations will stop (working) and there will be no oil from tomorrow.”
Libyan exile Mohamed Eljahmi called Seif Qaddafi’s remarks “pathetic, desperate, delusional, and deceitful.”
Eljahmi continued, “These are criminal thugs who should be put on trial for crimes against humanity. They should not be given a second chance.”
Eljahmi’s brother Fathi was imprisoned in Libya for calling for reform. He fell into a coma while in prison and died as a result.
Mohamed Eljahmi said that the Qaddafi, in power since 1969, has corrupted the values of the Libyan people. He estimates 10 percent to 20 percent of the population are informants because that is the only way to get by.
Because Libya is such a repressive place, with a large secret police apparatus, many assumed people would not come out onto the streets, for fear of reprisal. But apparently, they are all collectively, and it seems equally, fed up with the situation.
At sunset, pro-Qaddafi militia drove around Tripoli with loudspeakers and told people not to leave their homes, witnesses said, as security forces sought to keep the unrest that swept eastern parts of the country -- leaving the second-largest city of Benghazi in protesters' control -- from overwhelming the capital of 2 million people.
State TV said the military had "stormed the hideouts of saboteurs" and urged the public to back security forces. Protesters called for a demonstration in Tripoli's central Green Square and in front of Qaddafi's residence, but witnesses in various neighborhoods described a scene of intimidation: helicopters hovering above the main seaside boulevard and pro-Qaddafi gunmen firing from moving cars and even shooting at the facades of homes to terrify the population.
Youths trying to gather in the streets were forced to scatter and run for cover by the gunfire, said one witness, who like many reached in Tripoli by The Associated Press spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Qaddafi, whose whereabouts were not known, appeared to have lost the support of at least one major tribe, several military units and his own diplomats, including the delegation to the United Nations.
Warplanes swooped low over Tripoli in the evening and snipers took up position on roofs, apparently to stop people outside the capital from joining protests, according to Mohammed Abdul-Malek, a London-based opposition activist in touch with residents.
Communications to the capital appeared to have been cut, and residents could not be reached by phone from outside the country. State TV showed video of hundreds of Qaddafi supporters rallying in Green Square, waving palm fronds and pictures of the Libyan leader.
Jordanians who fled Libya gave horrific accounts of a "bloodbath" in Tripoli, saying they saw people shot, scores of burned cars and shops, and what appeared to be armed mercenaries who looked as if they were from other African countries.
The first major protests to hit an OPEC country -- and major supplier to Europe -- have sent oil prices jumping, and the industry has begun eyeing reserves touched only after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the first Gulf War in 1991.
The eruption of turmoil in the capital after seven days of protests and bloody clashes in Libya's eastern cities sharply escalated the challenge to Qaddafi. His security forces have unleashed the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country against the wave of protests sweeping the region, which toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. At least 233 people have been killed so far, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting neighboring Egypt, called the Libyan government's crackdown "appalling."
"The regime is using the most vicious forms of repression against people who want to see that country -- which is one of the most closed and one of the most autocratic -- make progress," he told reporters in Cairo.
Fox News' Amy Kellogg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.