Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's leader, has said that al-Qaeda is responsible for the uprising against him, amid attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces against anti-government protesters in several cities.
In a speech made via telephone and aired on state television on Thursday, Gaddafi claimed that the protesters were young people who had been manipulated by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda's leader, and were acting under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.
As he spoke, troops loyal to Gaddafi launched a counter-offensive on Thursday against anti-government protesters, striking at two cities near the capital, Tripoli.
The worst violence was seen in the town of Az Zawiyah, about 50km west of Tripoli, where troops opened fire with automatic weapons and an anti-aircraft gun on a mosque where protesters had been taking shelter.
In his speech, Gaddafi argued that he was a purely "symbolic" leader with no real political power, and that citizens had "no reason to complain whatsoever". He hinted that he would be prepared to raise salaries, but warned that protesters would be tried in the country's courts. [The entire speech is available here.]