The security chief in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi announced his resignation on Thursday, voicing his support for the opposition to head of state Muammar Gaddafi in a video aired by Al Arabiya TV.
"I am Brigadier Ali Huwaidi, the director of Benghazi's security popular committee. I tendered my resignation and I am ready to stand behind the youth," he said in the video.
Huwaidi became the latest in a wave of defections among members of the Libyan military refusing to order or carry out violence against their own countrymen. On Wednesday, the Libyan newspaper Quryna reported a Libyan Air Force plane crash near Benghazi, a city primarily under opposition control. Its crew ejected, refusing to carry out orders to bomb the city, according to Quryna.
"There have been significant defections among senior leaders," professor Daniel Byman, the director of Georgetown University's security studies program, said in an interview with The Huffington Post.
Military leaders have cast their resignations as a matter of honor, but Byman and other analysts said the defections indicate the growing influence of the anti-Gaddafi opposition.
"Leaders are stepping down, declaring moral outrage, but you don't get into that position of power in Libya through a sense of morality and conscience," Byman said. "They obviously feel the wind blowing in a different direction and are moving accordingly."
But Gaddafi isn't solely dependent on national military forces, which Byman said he has long sought to divide against itself by means of coercion and favoritism. The Libyan head of state can also rely on local-level tribal militias, which are hardly the equal of a conventional army but have been gaining strength for years and are expected to fight for Gaddafi even if the military turns on his regime.
Gaddafi has also unleashed foreign mercenaries against the opposition, according to new reports detailing African fighters roaming the streets and opening fire on citizens in Benghazi and the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
Fred Abrahams, a special adviser for Human Rights Watch said he can confirm those reports. "African fighters were brought in because Gaddafi fears Libyan forces in the police and army will not open fire on their brothers and sisters," Abrahams said. "The defections of police and military in the east prove that he was right in that assumption. He can rely on mercenaries to do the dirty work that Libyans will not."
Human Rights Watch has not released estimates regarding the number of mercenaries in Libya, but there are unconfirmed claims of thousands of foreign fighters. Abrahams said his organization has confirmed the presence of mercenaries flown in from African states including Chad, Niger and Sudan. Gaddafi has supported rebel groups in each of those countries.
According to Al Jazeera, pamphlets have been circulated to mercenary recruits from Guinea and Nigeria, offering foreign fighters $2,000 per day to quell the Libyan unrest.
Reports speculate that mercenaries are primarily targeting the uprising in the eastern part of the country, and witnesses also report mercenaries in Tripoli and around the western district of Zawiya.
A Libyan citizen living in the U.S. told The Huffington Post that his brother, a Libyan living in Tripoli, has seen armed foreigners taking control of the streets.
"They're everywhere, very well-armed in jeeps with big guns. You can't go two or three streets without seeing them," he said. "The entire city of Tripoli is under house arrest. My family and most people are staying inside until they get help. They have no weapons. The new fear is that Gaddafi says things like, 'They are going to go door to door.'"