Did NATO kill 85 Libyan Villagers As Qaddafi Regime Contends?
This news report from Haaretz 09/08/11 is typical:
The Libyan government said Tuesday that a NATO airstrike near the western city of Zlitan had killed 85 villagers, including children, state television reported - a claim swiftly called into question by the military alliance.
Footage showed what the broadcaster said were the burned bodies of at least three children under the age of 9 in a hospital. It also showed women and children being treated for injuries. The country is to hold a three-day mourning for the deaths, the channel reported.
The report said the victims were from the village of Majar, which is near Zlitan, to the east of the capital Tripoli, where NATO forces have been intensifying their strikes on government troops.
However this report was quickly disputed by NATO:
NATO spokesman Col. Roland Lavoie said the Libyan claim of civilian casualties in an airstrike near the western front-line town of Zlitan "was not corroborated by available factual information at the site."
NATO aircraft hit a staging base and military accommodation 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Zlitan, Lavoie said from the operational command in Naples, Italy. Four buildings and nine vehicles within the compound were struck with precision-guided munitions, he said.
"With our surveillance capabilities, we monitored this military compound very carefully before striking it," Lavoie said. "A number of military or mercenary casualties were expected due to the nature of the activity we monitored."
"Our assessment, based on the level of destruction of the buildings, confirms the likelihood of military and mercenary casualties," he said.
State television also showed funerals for dozens of civilians it said were killed in the NATO airstrike near Zlitan, about 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.
The channel has been airing images in black and white to honor a three-day mourning period for the 85 people the government said lost their lives in Zlitan.
A day earlier, state television ran images of Libyans rummaging through the rubble of buildings the government said were destroyed by the airstrike. They were shown digging out body parts and piling dead babies in sacks in the back of ambulances. It said 33 children and 32 women were among those killed.
The Telegraph had a reporter on the scene and filed this report:
Despite discrepancies at the bomb sites, regime spokesmen said that 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.- Advertisement -
Ten miles away at Zlitan hospital officials put bodies said to have been recovered from the site on display. 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 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, Col Gaddafi's forces have an incentive to operate from compounds occupied by families.