Libya claims NATO killed 85 civilians in village airstrike
Muammar Gaddafi's regime intensified its efforts to curtail the Nato bombing campaign by claiming yesterday that 85 people were killed in an airstrike on farmyard compounds.
Despite discrepancies at the bomb sites, regime spokesmen said 20 families in Majar, a remote village on a ridge overlooking the rebel enclave of Misurata, had been killed in airstrikes.
While up to seven homes were destroyed by large-scale explosions, there was no evidence of the scale of slaughter suggested by officials.
Ten miles away, at Zlitan hospital, officials displayed bodies said to have been recovered from the site. One woman and two infant corpses lay alongside men of military age.
At least one ruined home bore the hallmarks of family life but debris from the destruction contained relatively few clues to the lives of the occupants.
Only a few traces of blood were smeared on the rubble of the houses and there was no sign that bodies had been dragged through the dust.
With Nato's rules of engagement imposing strict safeguards to protect civilian life, Gaddafi's forces have an incentive to operate from compounds occupied by families.
A green army belt that one official quickly removed from the side of a teddy bear indicated that the army had established a presence in the area.
The Libyan government was adamant that there was a "massacre" inflicted on the quiet farmsteads in Nato sorties. Mousssa Ibrahim, the government spokesman, implored for a fair hearing for Tripoli's claims.
He said: "Take this as it is -- the proof of the truth and reality of the crimes of Nato."
The smaller coffins of women and children were laid out alongside the men at an emotional funeral. Mourners unloaded magazines into the air, proclaiming defiance against Nato and the Libyan rebel allies.
"Nobody is telling the truth about these airstrikes against ordinary homes," said Fathi Ali, a refugee from Misurata. "What about the people who support Gaddafi, nobody is looking out for us."
At Zlitan hospital, Salwa Aquil al Jawad Gadafez told how she had lost her mother and two sisters in the airstrike. She broke a shoulder as she sat on the step but her sisters inside and her mother outside were killed.
Nato has carried daily attacks on Zlitan against artillery and mortar positions of the Libyan army's 32nd brigade.
"It has all been a big, big lie," said Mr Ibrahim. "Five months of international air raids around government-controlled Libya -- hundreds have been killed, thousands."
Libyan officials have publicly called on China and Russia to demand an end to the bombing campaign when the UN Security Council debates the resolution at the end of August. (©Daily Telegraph, London)