The leader of Libya Moammar Gaddafi has appeared on state TV and alleged that al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden and his followers are behind the protests and revolts in the country.

It is obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaeda, he said.

Reportedly speaking from the town of al-Zawiya (about 30 miles west of the capital Tripoli), Gaddafi claimed that young people participating in the civil unrest were lured by drugs and alcohol to commit acts of destruction and sabotage.

He claimed that the protesters were young people who could not be held accountbale for their actions by police.

No one above the age of 20 would actually take part in these events, he said. “They are taking advantage of the young age of these people [to commit violent acts] because they are not legally liable!

He asked Libyan parents to keep their children at home.

Gaddafi also said the protesters had no genuine grievances and were used and manipulated by Bin Laden. He also declared that the people of Libya have the freedom to change their lives through his system of committees – something Egypt and Tunisia did not have.

This is your country and it is up to you how to deal with it, he said.

According to media reports, Gaddafi is seeking to consolidate control of the western portion of the country, while the east has been largely ceded to his opponents.

There have also been reports of fresh gunfire in Tripoli.