Snipers, shells, tanks terrorize key Libyan city
(AP) - Moammar Gadhafi's snipers and tanks areterrorizing civilians in the coastal city of Misrata, a residentsaid, and the U.S. military warned Tuesday it was "considering alloptions" in response to dire conditions there that have leftpeople cowering in darkened homes and scrounging for food andrainwater.
The U.S. is days away from turning over control of the airassault on Libya to other countries, President Barack Obama said.Just how that will be accomplished remains in dispute: Obama spokeTuesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron and FrenchPresident Nicolas Sarkozy in hopes of quickly resolving thesquabble over the transition.
"When this transition takes place, it is not going to be ourplanes that are maintaining the no-fly zone. It is not going to beour ships that are necessarily enforcing the arms embargo. That'sprecisely what the other nations are going to do," the presidentsaid at a news conference in El Salvador as he neared the end of aLatin American trip overshadowed by events in Libya.
Gadhafi, meanwhile, made his first public appearance in a week,promising enthusiastic supporters at his residential compound inTripoli, "In the short term, we'll beat them, in the long term,we'll beat them."
Libyan state TV broadcast what it said was live coverage ofGadhafi's less-than-five-minute statement. Standing on a balcony,he denounced the coalition bombing attacks on his forces.
"O great Libyan people, you have to live now, this time ofglory, this is a time of glory that we are living," he said.
State TV said Gadhafi was speaking from his Bab Al-Aziziyaresidential compound, the same one hit by a cruise missile Sundaynight. Reporters were not allowed to enter the compound as hespoke.
Heavy anti-aircraft fire and loud explosions sounded in Tripoliafter nightfall, possibly a new attack in the international aircampaign that so far has focused on military targets.
One of Gadhafi's sons may have been killed, U.S. Secretary ofState Hillary Clinton told ABC News on Tuesday. She citedunconfirmed reports and did not say which son she meant. She saidthe "evidence is not sufficient" to confirm this.
Clinton also told ABC that people close to Gadhafi are makingcontact with people abroad to explore options for the future, butshe did not say that one of the options might be exile. She saidthey were asking, "What do we do? How do we get out of this? Whathappens next?"
Despite the allies' efforts to keep Gadhafi from overwhelmingrebel forces trying to end his four-decade rule, conditions havedeteriorated sharply the last major city the rebels hold in westernLibya.
Residents of Misrata, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast ofTripoli, say shelling and sniper attacks are unrelenting. A doctorsaid tanks opened fire on a peaceful protest Monday.
"The number of dead are too many for our hospital to handle,"said the doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear ofreprisals if the city falls to Gadhafi's troops. As for food, hesaid, "We share what we find and if we don't find anything, whichhappens, we don't know what to do."
Neither the rebels nor Gadhafi's forces are strong enough tohold Misrata or Ajdabiya, a key city in the east that is also adaily battleground. But the airstrikes and missiles that are theweapons of choice for international forces may be of limited use.
"When there's fighting in urban areas and combatants are mixingand mingling with civilians, the options are vastly reduced," saidFred Abrahams, a special adviser at Human Rights Watch. "I canimagine the pressures and desires to protect civilians in Misrataand Ajdabiya are bumping up against the concerns about causingharms to the civilians you seek to protect."
It is all but impossible to verify accounts within the two cities, which have limited communications and are now blocked torights monitors such as the International Committee for the RedCross.
Most of eastern Libya is in rebel hands but the force - withmore enthusiasm than discipline - has struggled to take advantageof the gains from the international air campaign, which appears tohave hobbled Gadhafi's air defenses and artillery and rescued therebels from impending defeat.
The coalition includes the U.S., Canada, several Europeancountries and Qatar. Qatar was expected to start flying air patrolsover Libya by this weekend, becoming the first member of the ArabLeague to participate directly in the military mission.
The Obama administration is eager to relinquish leadership ofthe hurriedly assembled coalition. A NATO-led operation wouldrequire the unanimous support of member nations but two of them,France and Turkey, do not want the alliance to take over.
A compromise was emerging that would see NATO take a key role,but the operation would be guided by a political committee offoreign ministers from the West and the Arab world.