LIBYA: Explosions rock Tripoli; Kadafi spokesman briefs press
Explosions rocked the Libyan capital overnight, as NATO aircraft buzzed overhead. Gunshots crackled through the evening in Tripoli.
Musa Ibrahim, chief spokesman for the government of Moammar Kadafi, briefed the foreign press, excoriating “the colonial mind-set of the West.”
Ibrahim gave the government’s first official casualty accounting from the aerial attacks led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Between March 19 and May 26, Ibrahim said, the bombing had left 718 dead and 4,067 injured, including 433 with serious injuries. These were all civilians, he said. There were no numbers available yet for military casualties, he said.
Asked why the foreign press corps in Tripoli had seen relatively little evidence of civilian casualties, Ibrahim responded that most of the victims were from outside the capital. Ibrahim has denounced as untrue rebel assertions that the regime has killed thousands of civilians since violence broke out in mid-February.
A NATO official declined to comment on the government casualty figures, noting that “we’ve got nobody there to verify” such allegations. He added: “We take every care to avoid any unnecessary civilian casualties.”
The Libyan government spokesman's comments included:
-- On Kadafi: “This is a fighter. This is a guy who has seen it all, who has been attacked by NATO and the Americans and the British … who has fought the forces of evil and injustice in Libya before. … He’s a very brave man. He’s very dignified. He’s very honorable. He knows, and this is his biggest strength, that he is loved by millions, not only inside Libya, but outside. … If Kadafi disappears for any reason, then the safety valve disappears, and you will have civil war.”
-- Western governments “have no respect for Africa. They still think of Africa as not grown up or mature enough to solve their own problems.” This followed the rejection –- by the Libyan rebels and their allies — of an African Union peace “road map” that would leave Kadafi in power as talks begin. “Who are you to say to the Libyan nation, ‘You cannot choose Moammar Kadafi,' or, ‘You cannot choose his regime,’ as you call him.”
-- The international media “is either unprofessional or immoral,” because it discounts the African peace plan and doesn’t question the bombing. “We have said again and again, you cannot keep bombarding us. … Everyone is saying no to peace except us.”
-- The rebels based in the eastern city of Benghazi “want to turn the country into a blood bath, into a hell fire.”
-- On the mounting Libyan defectors: “Those who defect mostly do that out of a cowardly attitude. … They want to save their skin. When you are fighting a war, some people are cowards. Some people run. …. Those who are holding dear to wealth and power have escaped the country and joined NATO and the rebellion. … They are sitting in Rome, they are sitting in Paris, they are sitting in New York, plotting against their own people who are still here.”
-- On Libya’s preparedness: “We are here to stay and fight and we will never give in. … We will all take our guns and Kalashnikovs and fight.”
--Patrick J. McDonnell in Tripoli