After a week of harrowing experiences in Libya, Dong Shubao landed safely in Shanghai Thursday afternoon, swearing he would never return to the troubled North African nation.
Having been working for more than five months in Tubruq, a city some 170 kilometers from the Libyan border with Egypt, the 44-year-old worker from Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, never imagined he would be faced with armed gangsters running amok.
Dong was among 30,000 Chinese nationals who worked in Libya. More than 4,200 Chinese arrived safely Thursday in the Greek port of Heraklion after being evacuated.
"We stopped working at our construction site February 17th after receiving information about the unrest, but we never thought bandits would rob us," Dong recalled.
"Around 20 armed men came to our construction site Saturday evening and began ransacking it. Concerned for our safety, our boss told us not to fight back and to give them anything they wanted," said Dong, who, along with his coworkers, was sent packing with nothing but his clothes.
After the attack, the Chinese embassy in Libya arranged seven vehicles for them and drove the workers to Tripoli.
"We stayed in hotels for two days there before being sent to Egypt. I could hear gunshots every night. It was so terrifying that I do not want to return to that country anymore," Dong said.
"It feels really good to be home. Compared with those who are still in Libya waiting for evacuation, I'm really lucky because I heard the situation there is getting worse and worse," Dong added.
Media reports point to Dong being right, as Libya seemed to be plunging toward open civil war with protesters marching on the capital.
According to Reuters, forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi launched a counterattack Thursday, fighting fierce gun battles with rebels who have threatened the Libyan leader by seizing important towns close to the capital.
Checkpoints were set up in the west of Tripoli for the first time, with anyone wishing to pass needing official papers, The New York Times reported.
According to the BBC, in the eastern city of Benghazi, residents have been queuing to receive guns looted from army and police depots, so that they may join the battle for Tripoli.
A number of military units in the east also reported that they had unified their forces to support the protestors.
"Our goal now is Tripoli," one protester said at a town hall meeting addressed by defecting generals, AFP reported.
Speaking to the TV station by phone, Gaddafi said Thursday that Libyans were fighting among themselves and had been taking drugs, Reuters reported.
Calling for calm, he accused Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden of orchestrating the uprising against him.
"Bin Laden ... this is the enemy who is manipulating people," said Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for 42 ye. "Do not be swayed by bin Laden."
The colonel said he has only "moral authority," and offered his condolences to those killed in the unrest.
Gao Zugui, director of the Institute of World Politics at the China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations, did not rule out the possibility of a bloody civil war.
"Judging from the colonel's past record, it would not be surprising if he takes some drastic actions against rioters," Gao told the Global Times, adding that this is not the first time Gaddafi has faced such a crisis.
"We have to admit that Gaddafi is still the strongest politician in Libya. The opposition is weak, and the protesters are leaderless. I doubt those rebellions have the ability to withstand a full-scale coun-ter-strike by the strongman," Gao said.
In a statement Wednesday, US President Barack Obama called the violence in Libya "outrageous" and "unacceptable," and that his administration is looking at the "full range of options we have to respond to this crisis."
A joint statement by Europe and Russia Thursday also condemned Gaddafi's use of force against rioters, but stopped short of any concrete resolutions.
Additionally, the unrest sent global oil prices soaring to a new high Thursday, as the upheaval is expected to have shut about 1 million barrels of daily oil output, according to Barclay Capital.
Brent crude oil prices jumped to $120 Thursday, hitting their highest since 2008, and New York's light sweet crude for April, known as West Texas Intermediate, rose to $103.41, a level last seen in late September 2008.