Libya says civilians killed by Western airstrikes


Civilians, including women, were among those killed in the latest Western air strikes in the Libyan capital Tripoli, officials and hospital workers said. Libya said late on Thursday the civilian death toll from five days of coalition air strikes had reached almost 100 and accused Western governments of fighting on the side of the rebels.

Western military officials deny any civilians have been killed in its campaign to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians from government forces. Reuters and other journalists were taken to Tripoli Central Hospital where they were shown 15 bodies on Thursday night. “Those bodies were from (attacks) air strikes today and yesterday where they attacked civilian and military sites,” said morgue worker Ahmed Hussein.

There was no way to independently verify that they were killed by Western air strikes, which usually start just after dark and are followed by heavy anti-aircraft fire and bright red tracer rounds. The bodies lay on metal trolleys. Some were covered in thick, multi-coloured blankets. Hospital workers wearing surgical masks to ease the stench stood nearby. Three of the corpses were women in civilian clothing. Most of the dead were wearing military uniforms. Some bodies were charred beyond recognition.

No names of the victims were given and doctors were not available for comment. Hospital workers said they were killed in air strikes in Tripoli on Thursday and Wednesday. But one corpse was wrapped in a white bag dated March 18. That predates the start of the Western military campaign to destroy Libya’s air defence systems. Libyan officials have declined to show journalists the sites of Western air strikes on what they say were civilian targets despite repeated requests. Reporters have not been able to speak to any of the wounded either.