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Libya: NATO Strike Kills 12 Rebels; U.S. Says Death Toll Could Reach 30,000

In this photo, made on a government organized tour, a volunteer learns to use a rocket propelled grenade in Tarhouna district, Libya.
In this photo, made on a government organized tour, a volunteer learns to use a rocket propelled grenade in Tarhouna district, Libya.

As the pace of Allied bombing picked up in Libya over the past few days, The New York Times reports that a NATO strike in Misurata killed 12 rebels today:

The airstrike hit a salt factory in the Qasr Ahmed neighborhood at 4:30 p.m. local time. The rebels had been using it as a forward position since at least yesterday, they said, and had notified NATO of their presence there. In early April, NATO admitted its warplanes twice hit rebel positions, killing more than a dozen men, and expressed regret after the second.

Also, today, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz said it is difficult to gauge how many people have died since the beginning of the conflict in Libya but the U.S. thinks it could be anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000.

The AP reports:

"I don't think we're probably going to get an accurate number until we really get more hands-on experience on the ground," Cretz told reporters at the State Department in Washington. "We just have no sense of the scale of this thing until it's over."

Cretz said the U.S. keeps getting reports of "bodies that have been uncovered on the beach" as it maintains communication with contacts it established when it operated an embassy in Libya.

The Guardian reports that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is recruiting children to fortify his military. The paper reports that Gadhafi has started handing out AK-47s to civilians and said the minimum age to participate in the civilian army is 17. The Guardian reports, however, that in the center of the town of Sbia, 30 miles south of Tripoli, girls as young as seven, "were schooled in loyalist chants and waving portraits of Gaddafi." The paper adds:

Against the background noise of bullets being fired into the air, Ebtihaj Enbess, 17, said she had also come to the centre to learn how to defend her country. "We are nothing without Gaddafi. I am not scared."

Their instructor, regular soldier Zohrah Mohamed, 35, said she was proud to be training women to defend their country. Gaddafi "did a lot of things for women", she said, without elaboration.

The training had started about a month ago, she said. Asked if it was acceptable to train children to use weapons, she said: "All the Libyan people must be armed."

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