4:32am

Mon March 21, 2011
Libya: Allies Attack Gadhafi Positions

Gadhafi Supporters Rally Amid Rubble At Tripoli Base

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:03 am

With U.S. and allied forces using missiles and bombs to strike at the heart of Moammar Gadhafi's military defenses, the Libyan leader finds himself standing alone against the world once more. But in Libya's capital, where part of Gadhafi's compound was hit Sunday, his supporters celebrated his continued defiance.

From a roof in Tripoli on Sunday night, we saw a plume of smoke rise near Bab Al Azizia, the sprawling military base where Gadhafi has a home. A couple of hours later, the government opened the doors of the compound and invited foreign journalists in.

We were led through a party of people — apparently to show us that people are still celebrating and standing by their leader. And then we walked through a lot of rubble and came to a building that has totally collapsed. The government says this administrative building was hit by a missile earlier Sunday.

"Hundreds of civilians are here in this place to protect it as a voluntary human shield," said Ibrahim Moussa, a government spokesman. "So the danger of harming people was real, was there, and we are really thankful to God, not to the Americans, that no one was hurt today — none of the children, none of the families, none of the civilians."

He said someone working there had handed him part of the rocket that hit the building, but that he couldn't confirm it.

At the Pentagon, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney was asked Sunday night if Gadhafi himself is a target, and he said no. But Gortney did say the allied forces are going after "command and control" structures in Gadhafi's air defense system. And it's certainly possible a building on this base played such a role.

Gadhafi loyalists have been sleeping and partying at Bab Al Azizia, the downtown compound, since the attacks began, to show support for their leader. The base has long been a symbol of Gadhafi's defiance and ability to survive. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes here, reportedly killing one of Gadhafi's daughters. There's still a statue here — a large golden fist crushing the model of a U.S. fighter jet.

The statue was shown on Libyan state television Sunday as Gadhafi delivered a 12-minute rant.

"You can't do anything in Afghanistan. Bin Laden defeated you. This week, man, you've used all your resources, and now you've accepted defeat and you're ready to leave. And the same in Libya. You're not going to leave victorious," he said.

To defend the country, Gadhafi has said he is putting weapons in the hands of the Libyan people.

Shots were fired into the sky Sunday afternoon along the shore of the Mediterranean. It was part celebration, part funeral at a place known as the "cemetery for martyrs." Twenty-six graves were dug and prepared, we were told, for Libyan soldiers and civilians killed in airstrikes Saturday.

One man watching on the sidelines spoke quietly to a few journalists. Police were watching his every move. The funeral, he whispered, was all lies. No civilians were killed. He said there are many people in Tripoli who don't like Gadhafi. But right now, they're living in fear. Give the military strikes a week, he said. People in Tripoli will rise up again.

At one gravesite, Ibrahim Dao said a 3-month-old girl, his distant cousin, was among those killed in a missile strike and was being buried. As reporters asked details about the girl, Dao began to get upset. "From your questions, I feel like you think that we killed her," he said. "I don't know why."

Anger at the media has been stoked by the government, with state TV saying journalists from around the world are ganging up on Gadhafi, telling lies about what's been happening here. People sought journalists out to make sure they got the real story.

"You know, I love Moammar Gadhafi like my father," said one young man, a 15-year-old who gave his first name, Ahmed.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

We're going to get a view of Libya's conflict, as it looked from Tripoli overnight.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

INSKEEP: That's the sound of anti-aircraft guns, which, so far as we know, have fired ineffectively at the U.S. and its allies.

Allied war planes and missiles struck Moammar Gadhafi's military defenses over the weekend. Last night, our colleague David Greene stood on a rooftop in Tripoli watching smoke rise near the military base where Gadhafi has a home.

DAVID GREENE: Just a couple hours after we heard that anti-aircraft fire and saw some of the smoke rising above what appeared to be Gadhafi's compound, the government opened the doors of the compound and invited foreign journalists in. We walked through a party of people. I guess they wanted to show us that people were still celebrating and standing by their leader. Then we walked through a lot of rubble and came here to a building that has totally collapsed, just fallen to pieces. And what the government says is that this building was hit by a missile earlier tonight.

Mr. IBRAHIM MOUSSA: (Foreign language spoken) I'm trying to get the Libyans to shut up and leave.

GREENE: This is Ibrahim Moussa, a government spokesman, and he was trying to get journalists through a crowd so they could see what Moussa described as the remains of an administrative building.

Mr. MOUSSA: Hundreds of civilians are here in this place to protect it as a voluntary human shield. So the danger of harming people was real, was there, and we are really thankful to God, not to the Americans, that no one was hurt today.

GREENE: At the Pentagon, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney was asked last night if Gadhafi himself is a target, and he said no. But Gortney did say the allied forces are going after command and control structures in Gadhafi's air defense system. And it's certainly possible a building on this base played such a role.

Unidentified Group: (Singing in foreign language)

GREENE: Gadhafi loyalists have been sleeping and partying at this downtown compound since the attacks began to show support for their leader. The base, Bab Al Azizia, has long been a symbol of Gadhafi's defiance and ability to survive. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes here, reportedly killing one of Gadhafi's daughters. There's a statue here, a large golden fist crushing the model of a U.S. fighter jet.

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: Yesterday, that statue was shown on Libyan state television, as Gadhafi delivered a 12-minute rant.

Colonel MOAMMAR GADHAFI: (Foreign language spoken) (Through Translator) You can't do anything in Afghanistan. Bin Laden defeated you. This weak man, you've used all your resources, and now you've accepted defeat and you're ready to leave. And then, the same thing's in Libya. You're not going to come - leave victorious.

GREENE: To defend the country, Gadhafi has said he's putting weapons in the hands of the Libyan people.

Unidentified Group: (Chanting in foreign language)

(Soundbite of gunshots)

GREENE: Shots were fired into the sky all yesterday afternoon, along the shore of the Mediterranean. It was part celebration, part funeral at a place that's known as the cemetery for martyrs. Twenty-six graves were dug and prepared, we were told, for Libyan soldiers and civilians killed in air strikes on Saturday.

Unidentified Man #2: Allahu Akbar.

Unidentified Group: Allahu Akbar.

GREENE: One man watching on the sidelines spoke, quietly, to a few journalists. Police were watching his every move. There are many people in Tripoli, he told us, who don't like Gadhafi. Right now, they're living in fear. Give the military strikes a week, he said, and people in Tripoli will rise up again.

Meanwhile, over at one gravesite, family members told us a three-month-old girl named Siham Tabib had already been buried. Ibrahim Dao said this baby was a distant cousin.

Did you meet Siham? Did you spend time with her?

Mr. IBRAHIM DAO: No, no, because it is from the same family, actually. I never even saw her, you know. But yeah, yeah. We are a big family, you know.

GREENE: He began to get upset.

Mr. DAO: From your questions, I feel that you, you think that we killed her. I don't know why.

GREENE: The anger at the media has been stoked by the government, with state TV saying journalists from around the world are ganging up on Moammar Gadhafi, telling lies about what's been happening here. People sought journalists out to make sure they got the real story.

(Soundbite of clapping and singing)

GREENE: How old are you?

AHMED. Fifteen.

GREENE: How much?

AHMED: Fifteen.

GREENE: Fifteen. What's your name?

AHMED: My name is Ahmed.

GREENE: David Greene, NPR News, Tripoli.

AHMED: You know, I love Moammar Gadhafi like he's my father. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.