Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi’s top military commander was quoted by a weekly Egyptian newspaper today as saying U.S. missiles killed 56 people in the Gulf of Sidra fighting two weeks ago.
The report also quoted Kadafi as saying Libya’s fight against the United States is “escalating everywhere.”
Kadafi and Brig. Abu-Bakr Younis, commander in chief of Libya’s armed forces, were quoted by Al-Shaab, an organ of Egypt’s opposition Socialist Labor Party. It said the remarks were made to a Labor Party delegation that visited Libya last week.
The report said that when asked whether the confrontation with the United States had ended, Kadafi replied: “Never.”
“It has ended temporarily in front of the Gulf of Sidra, but the battle against America is escalating everywhere,” he was quoted as saying. “It began in the Gulf of Sidra, yes, to make America understand that this gulf has brought it nothing but a worldwide curse and that the earth is shaking under its feet everywhere because of its idiotic and unjust policy against small peoples.”
In the first known Libyan estimate of casualties from the March 24-25 clashes, Younis was quoted as saying 56 people “were martyred.”
He was quoted as claiming that U.S. warplanes rocketed a Libyan fishing boat and a tugboat sent into the gulf to “rescue some seamen.” He did not explain why any rescue mission was necessary.
The Reagan Administration has said that U.S. forces sank at least two Libyan patrol boats and attacked a missile base after Libya fired SA-5 missiles at American warplanes flying over the gulf.
Younis did not specify whether all the dead were Libyans. Western diplomats in Tripoli said last week that some Soviet advisers at Libyan missile batteries might have been hit by rockets fired from U.S. jets.