Despite Libyan claims, little evidence of civilian casualties
Libyan state media showed images of those it claimed were killed and wounded in ongoing Western airstrikes, but civilian casualties have been difficult to independently verify.
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Little evidence of casualties
Such evidence of casualties has been hard to come by, despite the presence of scores of tightly controlled foreign journalists in the Libyan capital.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Libya no-fly zone
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Yet before sunset Thursday, officials presided over a mass burial in a Tripoli cemetery, filling 15 of the 23 graves that were dug – and inexplicably never filled – during a widely photographed "funeral" for soldiers last Sunday.
On Thursday, 13 coffins draped with flowers were later joined by 20 others, though only 18 were officially buried at the cemetery, while the remaining coffins – marked only by numbers, and possibly not airstrike casualties – were taken away.
That was not the only uncertainty about casualties.
Journalists offered an escorted visit Wednesday to see a house where a family of five was claimed to have been strike and wounded were led around a neighborhood for 45 minutes, before being returned – with official apologies – to their hotel.
That visit was prompted by Libyan TV footage Wednesday morning that purported to show a residential house on fire, women shrieking and slapping their faces with grief as a barefoot girl covered with blood was carried on a stretcher.
But the peculiar lighting and editing made the event – which included a man shouting “a whole family was killed” – appear to have been staged.
Clashes elsewhere in the country
Elsewhere in the country, pro-Qaddafi and rebel forces remained locked in a stalemate in the eastern city of Ajdabiya on Thursday, with neither side able to take the advantage.
In Misratah, a rebel-held enclave 130 miles east of Tripoli that is surrounded by tribes loyal to Qaddafi, residents contacted by phone by media organizations reported that allied airstrikes forced Qaddafi tanks to retreat during daylight hours Wednesday afternoon, only for them to return after dark and continue shelling near the city’s sole hospital. There was no way to independently confirm the reports.
In Zintan, a town southwest of Tripoli close to Libya’s border with Tunisia, one resident told Reuters that Qaddafi forces were mobilizing tank and other units around the town.
Britain: Libyan air force crushed
British Royal Air Force Vice Marshall Greg Bagwell claimed Wednesday that the Libyan Air Force “no longer exists as a fighting force.” No Libyan military plane has taken to the skies since allied strikes began last Saturday.
But Libyan TV sought to portray a nation at war, and being victorious. It broadcast footage of fireworks being fired above Tripoli’s central Green Square, and showed dated video of uniformed women undergoing military training.
Also shown were old pictures of a soldier loading a 120mm mortar into a tube, Libyan Air Force jets flying, and a Libyan pilot climbing into a cockpit with little apparent confidence, as he fumbled with his helmet.