Libya's embattled dictator Moammar Gadhafi gave a bizarre speech by phone today to claim the revolt was the work of Osama bin Laden, that rebellious youth had been given hallucinogens, and to complain that the Queen of England has ruled longer than him and no one is asking her to step down.
Gadhafi's defense of his government came amid reports that his army of African mercenaries has begun to strike back at protesters, using an anti-aircraft gun to blast the minaret off a mosque where opposition demonstrators had sheltered and attacking the protesters with automatic weapons.
His speech was followed by an announcement from the Swiss foreign ministry that assets in Switzerland belonging to Gadhafi, his family and his accomplices will be frozen immediately. The freeze is valid for three years.
Today marked the second time the Libyan dictator has addressed the nation in recent days, although this time it was by phone to state television. The speech was often incomprehensible.
"The requests come from bin Laden," Gadhafi said in a rambling speech. "They have been brainwashing the kids and young people... teaching them how to misbehave."
"People with any brains will not take part in these protests," he added. "They are taking advantage of the young age of these people because they are not legally liable for punishment."
The eccentric leader directly addressed the people of Az-Zawiyah, an oil rich town west of Tripoli, where anti-government forces are reportedly in a battle with Gadhafi's supporters. He ordered the residents to "control your children." "They are loyal to bin Laden," he said.
President Obama on Wednesday joined other world leaders in condemning this week's violent government crackdown on Libyan protesters who have held firm in their efforts to oust Gadhafi as he struggles to maintain power.
More videos have emerged of Gadhafi's forces firing on protesters from helicopter gunships, and a fighter jet dropping bombs. Human rights groups say they've confirmed 300 deaths. Witnesses said the number could be as high as a 1,000.
But one of Gadhafi's sons said on state TV today that the death toll was inaccurate and "talking about hundreds and thousands [killed] is a joke." Seif al-Islam said Libya was open to journalists. The country has allowed some selected news organizations to come, but the State Department warned against any unauthorized travel by news media.
A clear east and west divide is emerging in Libya.
Gadhafi's grip on power appears to be slipping in the eastern half of the country and some parts of the west. On Wednesday, reports emerged that anti-opposition groups had taken control of the town of Misrata, west of Tripoli, and today, some eye witnesses described a brutal battle between anti-Gadhafi groups and his supporters in Az-Zawiyah for control of the oil-rich city.
According to various reports, the opposition in Az-Zawiyah had taken tanks and was in the process of fighting to take control. A victory in Az-Zawiyah would be a big boon to protesters. This is the same town where activists occupying a mosque were killed by Gadhafi supporters using anti-aircraft missiles and automatic weapons. Earlier today, eyewitnesses described the violence in the city as a "massacre."