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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Libyan rebels, Gadhafi’s forces battle for Misurata”

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces continued to battle rebels Monday in the opposition-controlled city of Misurata despite the government’s claims of a cease-fire and a Western-led bombing campaign meant to halt attacks on civilians.

Opposition supporters in Misurata described intense combat between rebels and pro-Gadhafi fighters within the city.

One source in the city who requested anonymity for security reasons charged that government forces were using civilians as human shields, an accusation also made by residents to Reuters news service. The accounts could not be confirmed. Gadhafi’s regime has barred independent observers from entering the city and has cut off telephone lines and Internet connections.

Civilians are caught both physically and rhetorically in the middle of a conflict that was sparked by fears that Gadhafi was about to seize opposition-held cities such as Benghazi and Misurata with offensives that might kill many inhabitants. Now, Tripoli also claims that the forces of the international coalition forces have slain civilians, a claim rejected by Western officials.

Gadhafi’s armed forces have twice declared dozens of noncombatants killed following a decision Thursday by the United Nations Security Council to authorize the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace and take “”any necessary measures”” to prevent a humanitarian disaster in opposition strongholds.

U.S., British and French aircraft began hitting Gadhafi’s forces with airstrikes and cruise missiles early Sunday morning, and the strikes will likely continue. British Maj. Gen. John Lorimer said that despite Gadhafi’s claims of a cease-fire, “”there has been no evidence to suggest there has been any change in the stance of the Libyan military. … We will continue to judge Col. Gadhafi on his actions.””

There has been no coverage of any cease-fire on tightly controlled Libyan state television. Instead it has been showing nonstop stock footage of steely eyed soldiers in uniform driving tanks, launching rockets and boarding transport helicopters, suggesting that the war effort continued.

Gadhafi has dealt harshly with his enemies in the past. A 1997 law allows Libyan authorities to punish a family or even an entire village for crimes allegedly committed by an individual in their midst, although a judiciary official told The Los Angeles Times in recent days that the law was no longer being implemented.

Although rebel advances have been reported in recent days against Gadhafi’s forces in the country’s east, witnesses told The Times and pan-Arab television channels that pro-Gadhafi snipers were opening fire on people in Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city and the last major rebel stronghold in the country’s west.

Nine people have been killed in the last 24 hours, said a contact in the city, with the injured flooding hospitals and a major clinic.

Amid a growing unease over the airstrikes on a Muslim nation by a Western-dominated coalition of powers, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the mission’s Security Council authorization “”clearly inadequate and deficient,”” likening it to a call for a “”crusade,”” according to the Russian Interfax news agency.

Referring to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq under “”a completely false pretext,”” Putin added: “”Now it is Libya’s turn under the pretext of protecting the civilian population. But it is because of bombing strikes on the territory that the civilian population dies. Where is logic and conscience?””

But Arab League head Amr Moussa qualified comments he made a day earlier criticizing the reported civilian toll from Western airstrikes in Libya, telling reporters in Cairo on Monday that his organization and the U.N. Security Council are “”united”” on the need to protect civilians after saying he received assurances on the protection of noncombatants.

The Arab League “”respects the U.N. Security Council resolution, and there is no contradiction,”” Moussa said. “”We will continue working to protect civilians, and we will ask everybody to take this into consideration in any military operation.””

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