Kadafi Surfaces After 48 hrs. : TV Speech Ends Rumor of His Death
Ending speculation that he was dead, Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi appeared on television and radio tonight, condemning the United States and Britain for the bombing attack on Libya.
“We are ready to die and we are ready to carry on fighting and defending our country,” he said.
Earlier, there was considerable mystery over Kadafi’s fate. Forty-eight hours after U.S. war jets bombed the Libyan capital, the Libyan leader had made no public appearance. The mystery deepened when he failed to appear today for a promised meeting with journalists at his fortress headquarters.
Earlier, the Reagan Administration had refused to guess Kadafi’s whereabouts or condition, and a State Department official insisted, “We’re not trying to assassinate” the Libyan strongman.
“We’re not able to draw any conclusions,” White House spokesman Larry Speakes said when pressed on whether Kadafi was alive or dead and where he might be since the bombing of his two-story stone villa and other targets.
Not His Usual Pattern
“Of course it is somewhat conspicuous that he has not followed his usual pattern” of appearing in public not long after momentous events, Speakes said.
Questions were also raised by reports of street fighting in Tripoli near Kadafi’s headquarters. Speakes said he had no information about whether a coup was attempted, and Libyan officials insisted that the firings were aimed at a U.S. reconnaissance plane.
Bombs and shells had severely damaged the two-story Kadafi family residence, blasted a tennis court, knocked down power lines and left a mass of shrapnel and debris in the compound.
A huge crater 10 yards from the residence indicated the force of a bomb that sent shrapnel through the walls and knocked down plaster and some walls, killing Kadafi’s 15-month-old adopted daughter and injuring two small sons.
Exile groups abroad and a Washington newspaper earlier today quoted Western intelligence and Libyan army sources as saying Kadafi had fled to North Yemen amid reports of a fresh coup attempt, but Libyan officials denied this. About 2 p.m. today, Libyan navy gunboats in Tripoli harbor opened fire for 10 minutes, gun muzzles flashing, and anti-aircraft and automatic-weapons fire was heard in the distance as a plane flew high overhead.
Plane Called Target
Libyan radio said gun crews were firing at a U.S. SR-71 “Blackbird” reconnaissance plane. Pentagon sources said U.S. satellites and reconnaissance planes have been trying to survey Libyan targets.
About the same time, the Libyan government took a busload of journalists to Kadafi’s headquarters, the Aziziyah Barracks, a sprawling, walled complex of barracks and administration buildings several miles from central Tripoli.
“You will see him today,” Information Director Ibrahim Seger said early in the day. “He’s fine.”
But Kadafi was not at the compound. Seger declined to explain why, but an aide later told reporters, “Kadafi is present.” Asked for details, he added, “In Libya.” He said he had met with the colonel today.
As the journalists’ bus first approached the headquarters, Libyan soldiers rushed out from the front gate, fanned out and began firing assault rifles. The bus wheeled around and headed back to the journalists’ hotel.