MOURNERS called for revenge as some 2,000 people in the Libyan capital greeted a funeral procession carrying Muammar Gaddafi’s son, who was killed in a NATO airstrike.
The crowd jostled to get close to Saif al-Arab’s coffin as it was taken out of a black hearse and placed near a cemetery in Tripoli. Some people prayed, some flashed victory signs and others vowed for revenge.
“Revenge, revenge for you Libya,” shouted the crowd around the coffin, which was draped in the green Libyan flag and was topped with a wreath of flowers. “We demand revenge for our martyrs.”
Libyan officials said 29-year-old Saif al-Arab was killed late on Saturday, along with three of Gaddafi’s grandchildren when NATO bombed the family’s compound in Tripoli. Gaddafi and his wife were present during the attack but were unharmed.
Some countries criticised the strike, saying it exceeded the UN mandate of protecting civilians in Libya.
The UN approved the implementation of a no-fly zone in Libya in March after Gaddafi used aircraft to attack protesters who demanded his resignation.
The South African government issued a statement saying “attacks on leaders and officials can only result in the escalation of tensions and conflicts on all sides and make future reconciliation difficult”.
NATO officials and allied leaders emphatically denied they were hunting Gaddafi to break the stalemate between better-trained government forces and lightly armed rebels, who control much of eastern Libya.
Russia cast doubt on these claims, accusing NATO of a “disproportionate use of force” and calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Gaddafi also called for a ceasefire, but rebels don’t believe it is genuine, since he has continued to pound the besieged town of Misrata, the only major rebel bastion in western Libya.
Gaddafi’s forces used tanks to shell Misrata yesterday, as rumours spread that the Libyan leader was preparing to use chemical weapons.
Hundreds have been killed in Misrata over the past two months as Gaddafi attempted to seize the town.
Rebels succeeded in pushing Gaddafi forces out of several areas in the centre of the town about a week ago, but they responded with relentless shelling from the outskirts.
The most recent barrage came after Gaddafi forces brought their tanks to the western gates of Misrata, said Libyan activist Rida al-Montasser. The shelling started up early yesterday morning and only paused with the threat of NATO airstrikes, he said.
“Only when we heard the NATO planes flying over, the shelling paused,” al-Montasser said.
NATO aircraft have carried out multiple airstrikes in efforts to stop Gaddafi’s siege, but alliance officials have found it difficult to target forces hidden in Misrata’s urban environment.
Even as the shelling paused, fear spread through Misrata that Gaddafi forces were preparing to use chemical weapons in their fight to defeat the rebels, who control eastern Libya and have demanded the Libyan leader step down.
“We heard like everybody else that the soldiers are distributing gas masks” in the nearby city of Zlitan, said al-Montasser.
The rumours of Gaddafi forces distributing gas masks could not be independently confirmed.
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