Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi issued a defiant audio message saying he had his “back to the wall,” but did not fear death, as NATO vowed to press its air war in Libya despite Italian calls for a cessation.
“We will resist and the battle will continue to the beyond, until you’re wiped out, but we will not be finished,” Qaddafi said in the message broadcast on Libyan television in homage to his comrade Khuwildi Hemidi, several members of whose family were killed on Monday in NATO raids on his residence.
“There’s no longer any agreement after you killed our children and our grandchildren ... We have our backs to the wall. You [the West] can move back,” he added.
“We are not frightened. We are not trying to live or escape,” Qaddafi said, denouncing what we called a crusade against a Muslim country targeting civilians and children.
NATO has acknowledged its warplanes early on Monday hit Sorman west of Tripoli but insisted the target was military, a precision air strike against a “high-level” command and control node.
Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said 15 people, including three children, were killed in the attack, which he slammed as a “cowardly terrorist act which cannot be justified.”
Ibrahim said the attack was on an estate belonging to Hemidi, a veteran comrade of Qaddafi.
“By what right do you target politicians and their families?” Qaddafi asked in the message broadcast late on Wednesday.
Qaddafi promised to build a monument, “the highest in North Africa,” to four-year-old Khaleda, Hemidi’s grand-daughter who the authorities said was killed in the raid.
His message came hours after NATO Secretary-Genera Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted there would be no let-up in the Libyan bombing campaign, saying more civilians would die if operations were not maintained under a UN mandate to protect Libyans from the exactions of Qaddafi’s regime.
The secretary general did not directly refer to Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini who on Wednesday called for “an immediate humanitarian suspension of hostilities” in Libya.
The commander of the NATO operation, Canada’s Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, echoed Rasmussen’s comments.
“I appreciate the effort of the Italian government to bring a cessation to the violence taking place and, obviously, to be able to move humanitarian assistance,” Bouchard told a briefing.
However, he said a ceasefire risked becoming “just an opportunity for both sides to reload and to engage in further violence down the road.”
Frattini’s comments had drawn a swift rebuff from France which has played a leading role in the military intervention in Libya.
“The coalition and the countries that met as the Abu Dhabi contact group two weeks ago were unanimous on the strategy — we must intensify the pressure on Qaddafi,” French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters.
The rebels fighting to end Qaddafi’s four-decade rule were also dismissive of the Italian ceasefire proposal.
“Even if NATO halts operations, we will fight tooth and nail, we will fight until our country is freed, we don’t fear [a NATO cessation],” rebel spokesman Mahmud Shamam said.