A Major General in the Libyan Army, Suleiman Mahmoud, has declared himself and his soldiers as being on the side of the people and against 'the tyrant' Muammar Gaddafi.
Maj. Gen Mahmoud is the commander of the army in the port city of Tobruk and the highest ranking officer to have declared his opposition to Gaddafi.
He told al Jazeera TV station that artillery had tried to wipe out protesters in the Libyan second city of Benghazi but were defeated.
This morning, a fighter pilot ordered to bomb protesters abandoned his aircraft and baled out.
It was also reported today that protesters had taken control of the city of Misurata, which is significant because the city is in the West of Libya..
The reports confirmed that opponents of Col Gaddafi appear firmly in control of the coastal east of Libya.
An AFP news team travelling into Libya saw rebels -- many of them armed -- all along the highway that hugs close to the Mediterranean from the Egyptian border to Tobruk city.
Local residents said that in Bayda city, militia men loyal to Gaddafi had been executed -- a measure of the violence that has gripped the oil-producing east of the country.
Residents also told AFP that the anti-Gaddafi movement was in firm control from the Egyptian border through Tobruk and Libya's second city Benghazi until Ajdabiya, further west along the coast.
Soldiers in the east were declaring their support for the uprising, the residents said, but the regime asserted it was still in control via a text message sent on the Libyan national mobile telephone network.
"God give victory to our leader and the people," the text message said, promising a credit in cellphone time if it was forwarded to other mobile telephone users.
Driving west from Tobruk in the afternoon, the AFP news team repeatedly saw the red, black and green flag of the Libyan monarch that Gaddafi overthrew in a coup d'etat in September 1969.
The 1951 independence flag has been embraced by Gaddafi's opponents as the standard of their movement, in lieu of the plain green one that represents the regime.
"Driving down the highway, people flash victory signs," one of the news team said. "They seem overjoyed. They say that are confident that Gaddafi will be toppled."
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