March 24th, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Libyans gather for funerals of alleged victims of airstrike

CNN Wire Staff

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) - After a fifth consecutive night of pounding by coalition jets, Libyans gathered at a seaside cemetery in Tripoli on Thursday for the funerals of 33 people Moammar Gadhafi's government said were victims of an airstrike.

State television broadcast the funerals live, calling the dead victims of the "crusader colonial aggression." Earlier, a Libyan government official said coalition planes struck the suburb of Tajura and state TV showed images of fires, smoldering vehicles and the charred bodies of the dead.

CNN could not independently verify the circumstances of the deaths or who the victims were. Regardless, anger trumped grief at the cemetery and Gadhafi's message was loud and clear: innocent people were wrongly killed and the Libyan people will fight back.

Coalition leaders have reported no civilian casualties so far and said that Western jets have dropped precision bombs on military targets.

The reports of civilian deaths were given little credence by coalition forces, which launched airstrikes Thursday near Tripoli, Misrata and Ajdabiya in Libya.

"The only civilian casualties we know are for certain are the ones that the Libyan government itself has caused," U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said.

More than 350 aircraft are participating in coalition efforts in enforcing a no-fly zone and protecting populations in Libya, with slightly more than half of the aircraft from the United States, he said. Nine other nations, including Qatar, are involved in the coalition, he said.

"When and where regime forces threaten the lives of their own citizens, they will be attacked," Gortney said. He urged Libyan forces to cease fighting.

Asked whether any Libyan forces loyal to Gadhafi have quit fighting, he said, "I'm not aware of any at this particular point in time.

"We are not communicating with the opposition forces on the ground," he said in response to a question. "When it comes to the opposition military forces and our military forces, we are not communicating."

Leadership of the coalition forces is expected to change soon. A deal in principle has been reached for NATO to take command of the military mission in Libya in coming days, diplomatic officials told CNN on Thursday.

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. Coralie Boyant

    Ghadafi and his followers are excellent stagers. They show corps of people killed by the Ghadafi forces to the world and make the world believe that the freedom fighters did it.
    Do you think we are blind,stupid or all brain-washed. We know how Ghadafi and his men/followers operate. They have no respect for the human race, or their own people. They are the DREGS of society. What did Ghadadi promise them for their support? $(s), heaven and a seat on his right side.....

    March 24, 2011 at 7:50 pm |