Human shields protect defiant Gadhafi

Libya in turmoil: Hundreds of supporters come out to defend the Colonel

Aisha, right, daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, is surrounded by supporters in the Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli on Saturday. AP

There, hundreds of supporters offered themselves as human shields, cheering to newly minted dance songs about their adoration for their leader. “House by house, ally by ally,” the catchiest song went, quoting a Gadhafi speech. “Disinfect the germs from each house and each room.”

The crowd included many women and children, and some said they had family in Colonel Gadhafi’s forces. They said they had come to protect Gadhafi’s compound from bombing by volunteering to be shields.

“If they want to hit Muammar Gadhafi, they must hit us because we are all Muammar Gadhafi,” said Ghazad Muftah, a 52-year-old widow of a soldier from the Warfalla tribe, who said she was there with her six children.

At least one person attending the rally spoke out against Colonel Gadhafi in a recent interview — a double-agent phenomenon that appears common among Libyan demonstrators for and against the government.

In Tajoura — a neighbourhood near the capital that has been a hotbed of anti-Gadhafi unrest — one resident had complained earlier in the day that despite the announced no-fly zone, Libyan Air Force jets could be heard taking off from the nearby bases, presumably headed toward the eastern front with the rebels.

“Our suffering is greater than anyone can imagine,” he said. “Anyone who dares go outside is either arrested or shot dead. Food is decreasing, there is no tap water, and electricity comes and goes,” he added.

“The hospitals cannot really offer much treatment anymore because there are no medicines. There is no milk for the children.”

It was unclear on Saturday night whether the missile strikes had hit the air base, but in the city of Misurata — the last major rebel holdout in the west — one person said residents were cheering the sound of airstrikes. The Gadhafi forces had continued their siege on Saturday, including the cutoff of water and electricity, he said, and Gadhafi gunmen continued to fire into the city.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect his family, he said: “The airstrikes sound good to the Libyan people.”

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