Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has ordered the Libyan air force to fire on military installations in Libya, according to what the BBC has characterized as a reliable source. Al Jazeera has suggested that air force fighters have opened fire on crowds of protesters.”¨
Though the latter would be particularly draconian, the more important question is whether these signs reflect a split within the regime and Gadhafi using military force to crush opposition to his regime emerging from the military or other security forces. Similar reports of the Libyan navy firing on targets onshore also are emerging, as well as reports that Gadhafi has given execution orders to soldiers who have refused to fire on Libyan protesters.
The application of conventional weaponry is noteworthy and will warrant scrutiny — particularly in terms of the targets of the attacks and the rationale behind them. The use of these weapons is more appropriate for other armed entities rather than unarmed protesters. Libyan troops are good at instilling fear, but not good at stabilizing a situation, so the military may not be able to get in on the ground due to lost capability.
The situation remains opaque, but these latest developments combined with recent reports of defections of military units to the demonstrators’ side continue to draw STRATFOR’s attention to the possibility that the regime is fracturing.