THE FRIENDLY GHOST
Associated Press – 20 mins ago
BENGHAZI, Libya – Army units and militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi struck back against rebellious Libyans who have risen up in cities close to the capital Thursday, attacking a mosque where many were holding an anti-government sit-in and battling with others who had seized control of an airport. A doctor at the mosque said 10 people were killed.
Gadhafi accused al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden of being behind the uprising in Libya, in a rambling phone call to state TV. The Libyan leader said the more than week-long revolt has been carried out by young men hopped up on hallucinogenic pills given to them "in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe."
"Shame on you, people of Zawiya, control your children," he said, addressing residents of the city outside Tripoli where the mosque attack took place. "They are loyal to bin Laden," he said of those involved in the uprising. What do you have to do with bin Laden, people of Zawiya? They are exploiting young people ... I insist it is bin Laden."
The attacks Thursday aimed to push back a revolt that has moved closer to Gadhafi's bastion in the capital, Tripoli. Most of the eastern half of Libya has already broken away, and parts of Gadhafi's regime have frayed.
In the latest blow to the Libyan leader, a cousin who is one of his closest aides, Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, announced that he has defected to Egypt in protest against the regime's bloody crackdown against the uprising, denouncing what he called "grave violations to human rights and human and international laws."
In Zawiya, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, an army unit attacked the city' Souq Mosque, where regime opponents had been camped for days in a protest calling for Gadhafi's ouster, a witness said. The soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons and hit the mosque's minaret with fire from an anti-aircraft gun, he said. Some of the young men among the protesters, who were inside the mosque and in a nearby lot, had hunting rifles for protection.
A doctor at a field clinic set up at the mosque said he saw the bodies of 10 dead, shot in the head and chest, as well as arond 150 wounded.
The witness said that a day earlier an envoy from Gadhafi had come to the city and warned protesters, "Either leave or you will see a massacre." Zawiya is a key city near an oil port and refineries.