Associated Press & Agence France-Presse & – 2011-05-15 15:07:38
Libya Says 11 Clerics Killed by NATO
TRIPOLI (May 14, 2011) — Eleven Muslim clerics in Libya have been killed in their sleep by a NATO airstrike on the eastern oil town of Brega, a government spokesman says.
The spokesman says the clerics were among a large group of imams who had gathered in Brega to pray for peace in conflict-ridden Libya. He said 11 imams were killed on Friday and 50 people wounded, including five in critical condition.
There was no immediate comment from NATO, which has been intensifying airstrikes in many parts of Libya against troops and installations of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in a bid to weaken his campaign against a rebel uprising.
One of the recent strikes hit Gaddafi’s main compound in Tripoli, the capital, and more strikes were carried out Friday.
11 Libyan Muslim Clerics Killed in NATO Strike: Spokesman
TRIPOLI (May 13, 2011) — Eleven Libyan Muslim clerics were killed in a NATO air strike, a government spokesman told a news conference Friday at which an imam called for 11,000 Western and Gulf citizens to be killed in revenge.
“So far, the death toll is 11 martyrs of the imams” who had gathered in Brega to the east of Tripoli, Mussa Ibrahim said, putting the number of wounded people at 50, including five in critical condition.
The imams’ “aim was to call upon their brothers and sisters in the eastern part of the country and everywehere to join them in the call of peace and dialogue in Libya,” he said, referring to rebels seeking strongman Moamer Kadhafi’s ouster and who are predominantly based in the east.
“But in the early hours they were attacked by the barbaric, inhumane NATO — they were hit in their sleep,” he said.
Later in the news conference an imam identified as Nureddin al-Mijrah called for 1,000 people from a list of Western and Gulf countries to be killed for each of the dead imams.
“This will have a very bad consequence as it will push us towards fighting back in all Islam against those who are humiliating our religion and our nation,” he said of the Brega strike.
We “call upon the Muslims all around the world to take revenge for our brothers who died today. For every man we should take down one thousand men … from France, Italy, Denmark, Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates,” he said.
Ibrahim said before Mijrah’s remarks that his views were his own and not those of the government, but he was still part of the speaker lineup at the government-organised news conference.
Earlier, state television put the toll from the Brega strike at 16 “civilians” killed, citing a military source.
Al-Libya television showed footage of at least seven apparently dead men it said were in Brega, and also said that in addition to those killed, there were “dozens of wounded” from the strike “last night.”
An internatioanl coalition began carrying out strikes on forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi on March 19. NATO took command of operations over Libya on March 31.
Massive protests in February — inspired by revolts that toppled long-time autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt — escalated into war when Kadhafi’s troops fired on demonstrators and protesters seized several towns.
Dueling Stories over Libyan ‘Clerics’ NATO Killed
Diaa Hadid and Don Melvin / Associated Press
Tripoli, Libya (May 15, 2011) — Mourners vowed revenge and rattled off heavy gunfire in a Tripoli cemetery Saturday as they buried nine men they said were Muslim clerics and medics killed in a NATO air strike.
The government, apparently hoping to turn the funeral into an outpouring of support for Moammar Khadafy, announced the time and place on state TV and over text messages. Only a few hundred men showed up, however, and few appeared to be family or friends of the dead. At least a dozen were soldiers.
NATO has been intensifying air strikes against Khadafy’s troops in several areas of Libya in a bid to weaken his brutal crackdown against a rebel uprising. Libya’s government has been eager to counter NATO’s message that its mission’s central aim is to protect civilians.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the men killed early Friday were clerics who met in the port town of Brega, which has been fought over throughout the three-month conflict, to pray for peace.
A cleric who identified himself as a witness gave a different account. He said they were a group of 16 men sent by the country’s Islamic affairs department to Brega to demonstrate that the port city was firmly in the hands of Khadafy’s forces as an act of defiance.
“We wanted to show that Brega wasn’t in rebel hands,” the cleric said. “We wanted to prove it by praying in the mosque on Friday. But we didn’t make it — my friends were killed in the strike,” he said at the funeral in Tripoli’s main Shat al-Hanshir cemetery.
The witness gave his name, but the Associated Press is not publishing it out of concern for his safety if he were identified. He did not appear to be aware that his version of events differed from what government officials told reporters.
In a statement Saturday, NATO said the building struck in Brega had been “clearly identified as a command and control center.” It said it could not confirm civilian deaths.
Also Saturday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with Libya’s opposition leader amid questions about the death of a French military contractor in a Libyan rebel stronghold. Mahmoud Jibril did not speak to reporters on his way out of the meeting with Sarkozy in Paris.
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