Hit by Western bombs, Libya mounts propaganda war

Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:24pm GMT

* Government provides no firm evidence of civilian deaths

* Gaddafi uses strong language to denounce the West

By Maria Golovnina

TRIPOLI, March 24 (Reuters) - Its defences battered by coalition air power, Libya is fighting back with a blaring propaganda campaign designed to present it as an innocent victim of "colonial crusader" aggression.

Muammar Gaddafi's government says dozens of civilians have been killed in five straight nights of Western air strikes, but has not shown reporters any firm evidence of civilian deaths. Western military officials deny any civilians have been killed.

From fiery statements on state TV to carefully orchestrated press events in Tripoli, Gaddafi's government is also working overtime to convince the world its forces are not involved in military action against civilians in rebel-held cities.

People in besieged rebel cities such as Misrata, reached by Reuters by telephone, have painted a different picture, saying days of air strikes have failed to stop bombardments and shootings of civilians by Gaddafi forces.

Gaddafi says anti-government rebels are al Qaeda militants. But as coalition strikes began over the weekend, the Libyan leader has himself resorted to language increasingly reminiscent of the Islamist group's anti-Western rhetoric.   Continued...

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