Libyan rebels say Gaddafi forces use human shields

Ban: We fear thousands dead in Libya; Arab League reaffirms "respect" for no-fly zone; UK defense secretary says West may hit Gaddafi.

March 21, 2011 13:24
4 minute read.
Air strike on Libyan government forces

Air strike on Libyan government forces 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)


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ALGIERS - Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are bringing civilians from nearby towns to the rebel-held city of Misrata to use as human shields, a rebel spokesman told Reuters on Monday.

The report could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Libyan officials. The spokesman also said seven people were killed in Misrata in fighting on Sunday, while a resident put the figure at eight.

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The Misrata resident also told Reuters that armed pro-Gaddafi forces, dressed in civilian clothes, were in the centre of the city. He said the city, 200 km (130 miles) east of Tripoli, was surrounded by Gaddafi's troops and water supplies were still cut off.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa addressed the situation in Libya during a Monday speech in Cairo, as Western forces continued air strikes on Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

"We fear a humanitarian crisis; thousands of lives are at risk" in Libya, Ban said.

He welcomed Arab league support at what he called a "critical juncture," adding that "we need one global voice" in order to maintain a no-fly zone.

"The UN stands read to help protect civilians and promote reform," Ban said, mentioning Yemen and Bahrain, as well as Libya. "You cannot hold back demands for democracy and reform."

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Amr Moussa says the Arab League "does not want to see any bloodshed among civilians as we have seen." He added that Libya has been suspended from the League.

"We decided that the Arab League will ask the UN to issue a resolution to have a no-fly zone that will protect civilians," Moussa explained. "This was clear, and we are committed to that."

Moussa said the Arab League "respected" the UNSC decision. "We have no objection to that because it specified that there will be no land troops occupying Libya."

Coalition continues air strikes; "Gaddafi may be a target"

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said that Gaddafi could become a target of the Western coalition's air strikes, as long as civilians' safety would be guaranteed, the Guardian reported on Sunday.

Fox reportedly explained that the scale of the attacks are "essential in terms of the Gaddafi regime's ability to prosecute attacks on their own people."

However, the head of Britain's armed forces later contradicted Fox's statement, claiming that Gaddafi is "absolutely not" a target for military action, the BBC reported.

General Sir David Richards said that the UN resolution on Libya passed last week authorizes "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians, but does not allow for an attack on Gaddafi.

"I think we're cautiously optimistic that we're on track to achieve the goals that have been set," the general said

Western forces launched air strikes until early on Monday on Muammar Gaddafi's forces around Ajdabiyah, a strategic town in east Libya that rebels aim to retake, rebels said.

Rebels said air strikes on Ajdabiyah began late on Sunday, continuing through Monday morning.

"There were air strikes till early this morning. The rebels attacked at about 3 a.m. and Gaddafi's forces counter-attacked. They are still at the eastern gate of Ajdabiyah," said Ahmed al-Tir, a rebel fighter in Zueitina about 9 miles away.

"The air strikes were on the eastern gate. I saw that myself and I think there were air strikes on the western gate but I only saw smoke from that direction," he said.

Others said the attacks mainly targeted the western gate.

"We are waiting for the French to bomb them. We are confident they will do this. We are also waiting for more supplies," said rebel fighter Ahmed al-Ebeidi, when asked about when the rebels would move on Ajdabiyah.

Gulf States support Libya air strikes

Gulf Arab states reject Iranian and other foreign interference in their internal affairs and said Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were taking part in Libyan military operations for "safety and security".

"We reject any intervention in our internal affairs and among these countries is Iran," Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi, responding to questions about Saudi and UAE troops helping the government in Bahrain.

Asked about UAE and Qatari involvement in a Western military operation against Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi, he said: "We are within the coalition for safety and security according to the UN resolution."

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