Violent unrest in Libya has spread to the capital, Tripoli, after more than 84 people were reported to have been killed in clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city.

The protests against the government of President Muammar Gaddafi began on 18 February in Benghazi, and were met with tear gas and live fire from security forces. US-based Human Rights Watch, says the country’s death toll has now reached at least 233 according to information from hospital sources in Libya (MEED 19:2:11) .

In the first official reaction to the unrest, Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam described himself as the “leader of the battle in Tripoli” on state television, warning of civil war and defending his father’s 41-year rule.

Al-Islam also described a plot against Libya by Islamic groups with a military agenda.

“We will call for new media laws, civil rights, lift the stupid punishments, we will have a constitution … We will tomorrow create a new Libya. We can agree on a new national anthem, new flag, new Libya. Or be prepared for civil war. Forget about oil,” said Al-Islam.

Domestic anger with Gaddaffi also seems to have spread to elements of his own government. Abdel Monein al-Honi, Libya’s representative to the Arab League, announced his resignation on 20 February in protest at the suppression of the unrest.

Hussein Sadiq al-Musrati Tripoli’s ambassador to China, resigned live on the Qatari news station, Al-Jazeera Arabic, urging diplomatic staff follow suit and calling on the army to intervene.

Libya’s ambassador to India, Ali al-Essawi, also resigned in protest at his government’s violent crackdown on demonstrators, the UK’s BBC reported on 21 February.