Anti-government protests in Libya have spread to the capitol of Tripoli, amidst rumors that the country’s dictator Moammar Gaddafi has fled into exile in Venezuela.

After a bloody crackdown in the eastern city of Benghazi, protesters are reportedly moving in on Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli.

More than 200 Libyans have reportedly been killed by government troops and mercenaries sent to quell the gathering rebellion.

BBC has reported that automatic gunfire and teargas have been fired at demonstrators in Tripoli and some government buildings have been burned to the ground.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, warned on state TV that a civil war was imminent.

There is a plot against Libya, said Saif, citing that an Islamic group with a military agenda was behind the turmoil.

He also said Libya would see rivers of blood and the departure of foreign oil companies and occupation by imperialists if the violence continued.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi's other sons, Khamis and Saadi, and intelligence chief Abdullah Sanussi were reportedly leading the campaign to stop the protests in Benghazi.

Moreover, Reuters reported that some Libyan soldiers have defected and joined the protests.

However, a Saudi Arabian newspaper, As-Sharq al-Awsat, reported that the Gaddafi family would die on Libyan soil rather than flee into exile.

Now people are dying we've got nothing else to live for, a student blogger told the British paper, the Guardian. It's like a pressure cooker. People are boiling up inside. I'm not even afraid any more. Once I wouldn't have spoken at all by phone. Now I don't care.

Libya's ambassador to China, Hussein Sadiq al Musrati, has reportedly resigned in protest of the violence.

The British foreign secretary William Hague, has expressed alarm at reports of large numbers of people being killed or attacked by Libyan security forces … The foreign secretary strongly encouraged the Libyan government to embark on dialogue and implement reforms. Other western powers have also expressed their concerns.

The US state department said it is gravely concerned with disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya.

France said it is extremely worried by events in Libya, and condemned Gaddafi’s regime for a totally disproportionate use of force.

Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, wrote in the Guardian: Assuming that the Libyan protesters have the stamina and determination of those in Tunisia and Egypt , even in the face of gunfire, the resolution of the conflict seems to depend on two factors: will the disturbances spread to the different urban environment of Tripoli? And will the army – composed of Libyans, not foreign mercenaries, and therefore open to tribal influences which are largely unknown – continue to be willing to fire on unarmed civilians?