Libyans Denounce U.S. as They Bury 19 Victims of Raid
Thousands of Libyans, some chanting “We will destroy America,” jammed the streets around a mosque today for the funeral of 19 victims of the U.S. bombing raid. Mourners were exhorted to wage a holy war against the United States.
The 19 coffins--two of them two-foot-long boxes for children--were driven through the city in a noisy procession of ambulances, cars and trucks as irate Libyans shouted anti-American slogans from their windows and waved the green flag of the North African nation.
Col. Moammar Kadafi, who was shown on Libyan television Thursday night visiting wounded people in the hospital, was not seen at the funeral, which was broadcast live on the state television and radio networks for more than two hours.
Doctors have said the Libyan leader’s 15-month-old adopted daughter Hana was among those killed in the attack, and that his two youngest sons were severely injured.
One slogan that rose from the crowd of 4,000 mourners was, “Kadafi is our leader, and he will fight our revolution.”
Heavy Neighborhood Damage
Libyan officials told reporters the people buried today lived in the residential neighborhood of Bin Ashor, which sustained heavy damage when U.S. warplanes attacked Tripoli and Benghazi early Tuesday morning.
The bodies were taken to a large dusty plot adjacent to a cemetery reserved for heroes of Libyan resistance to colonial Italian rule and eulogized in a Muslim ritual as martyrs guaranteed a place in heaven.
“We have to be happy because they have escaped and they will go to Paradise,” said Maj. Akweldi Hahmedi, one of five officers who led the 1969 revolution that brought Moammar Kadafi to power.
“We are a very small country fighting against the United States and we are prepared to fight and die if we have to,” the officer told the 3,000 mourners who attended the service. “Reagan is the killer of children.”
Men, Women Separated
Men and woman were separated during the three-hour ritual with the men standing in the dust of the plot and the women, all in white robes held over their head by their teeth, lined up along a wall.
The coffins, all made of an inexpensive plywood, were hoisted upon the shoulders of the mourners and carried into the cemetery. The people chanted, “There is no god but Allah,” and shook their fists in anger.
Arabic writing on the coffins indicated there were civilians and military personnel among the dead.
Libya has not made public casualty figures, but Western diplomats say at least 100 people, and probably more, died in the American bombing raids.
Bursts of Gunfire
The men removed their shoes, sat in front of the coffins and chanted from the Koran. The coffins were were then lowered into the al-Hani cemetery as soldiers fired three bursts of gunfire from Soviet-made rifles.
The official Libyan news agency reported that some victims of the raids were buried Thursday in Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi, which along with Tripoli was a target of the U.S. attacks. The news agency JANA did not say how many people were buried in Benghazi.
Thursday night, red streaks of anti-aircraft fire and white arcs of Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles lit up the night skies over Tripoli for the third straight night. There was no sign of aircraft or incoming fire.