Libyan conflict overview: Strike on Libya

Big price rises in capital

Libya's civil war has started to take a toll on everyday life even in strongholds of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, such as his capital, Tripoli. Lines of cars a kilometre long snake from the few petrol stations that remain open. Prices of some foods have doubled in the markets, with shops reporting shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables. The currency is in freefall, with the unofficial exchange rate against the dollar and euro almost doubling in two weeks. Before the war, up to 80 per cent of Libya's revenue came from oil. But production slumped from 1.6 million barrels a day to less than 500,000 as foreign workers left. Few in the queues blamed the rebels or the allied intervention directly. Out of sight of the minders, one man said life in the city had gone "crazy" - but he hoped that would mean the end of the regime. Others were seemingly genuine in criticising the allies for their bombing campaign. "The French and British must stop the bombing," said Fathi Ahmed, an electrical engineer. "My son can't sleep at night and my daughters are shaking."

TV claims Khamis alive

Libyan television broadcast what it said was live footage of Gaddafi's son Khamis greeting supporters at his father's compound in Tripoli. A TV anchor said the images, which showed a man with a striking resemblance to Khamis Gaddafi, refuted reports in the Arab media and on the internet that he was killed by a disaffected air force pilot who flew his plane into Gaddafi's Tripoli compound.

Libyan officials say such reports are part of a deliberate campaign of misinformation by enemies. Khamis is the commander of the military's elite 32nd brigade, seen by many analysts as the best-trained unit in Libya. The televised footage showed a man in military uniform standing in the back of a heavily guarded pickup truck that drove through the Bab al-Azizia compound. He waved to supporters and bodyguards tried to prevent some from getting too close.

Minister visits Tunis

Tunisia's official TAP news agency said Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa had crossed the border into Tunisia, quoting its own correspondent and a security source at the main transit point of Ras Jdir. It quoted a source at the Tunisian Foreign Ministry as saying his visit was "private ... not official".

RAF pilot shortage

The Royal Air Force risks running short of pilots for operations over Libya as cuts to the defence budget threaten to undermine front line operations, the Daily Telegraph reports. Since the conflict began, a squadron of 18 RAF Typhoon pilots has enforced the no-fly zone from an airbase in southern Italy. However, a shortage of qualified fighter pilots means the RAF may not have enough to replace all of them when the squadron has to rotate in a few weeks. The situation is so serious that the RAF has halted the teaching of trainee Typhoon pilots so instructors can be drafted on to the front line, say air force sources. The handful of pilots used for air shows will also be withdrawn from displays this northern summer. Cuts to the defence budget over the past decade have limited the number of pilots who have been trained to fly the new Typhoon. There are also fewer newly qualified pilots coming through after the RAF was forced to cut a quarter of its trainee places due to cuts announced in last year's Strategic Defence and Security Review. The Government's decision to decommission HMS Ark Royal, Harrier jump jets and the Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft - all of which could have played a role in the Libya conflict - has exacerbated the problem.

British fear another Iraq

The British public fears that the armed forces will be sucked into a long, Iraq-style military operation in Libya, according to a ComRes poll for the Independent. Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that Libya is "not another Iraq", but voters are not convinced and appear scarred by the long, bloody aftermath of the 2003 invasion. Seven out of 10 people (71 per cent) are concerned that the action in Libya could result in Britain being "dragged into a prolonged conflict like the Iraq war", while 24 per cent are not. The fears are greater among Labour supporters, 77 per cent of whom are worried that Libya could turn into another Iraq. That view is shared by 67 per cent of Conservative supporters and 70 per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters.

Rape victim now 'hostage'

The parents of a woman dragged by security men from a Tripoli hotel after alleging she had been raped by militiamen loyal to Gaddafi claimed yesterday that she was being held hostage in the Libyan leader's compound. The mother of Eman al-Obaidi received a call yesterday from an unidentified person purportedly representing the regime, the parents told Al Jazeera. The caller asked the family to tell al-Obaidi to change the rape claim in return for her freedom and benefits, including a house or money, according to the victim's mother. The Government had earlier suggested that al-Obaidi's complaint was the subject of a "normal criminal investigation" and that four men had been interrogated, including the son of a high-ranking state official. The channel did not give the parents' names, or say where they were speaking from.

Huge gold reserves

Gaddafi can tap gold reserves worth US$7 billion ($9.3 billion), equivalent to a 10th of the size of his country's economy. Libya holds more bullion as a proportion of gross domestic product than any country except Lebanon, according to the London-based World Gold Council using January data from the International Monetary Fund. The value of gold is based on the March 25 close of US$1429.74 an ounce. "He has all that gold? It's probably in the central bank of Libya," said Faraj Najem, a London-based Libyan writer and historian. "He has plenty of cash and if he's got gold, it's even better since he can pay mercenaries in a commodity that is easily exchangeable." The North African nation is sitting on 143.8 tonnes of gold at a time the price of the precious metal has fluctuated near a record high of US$1448.60 an ounce. Libya is the fourth-biggest holder of gold in the Middle East and Africa.

One family's tragedies

The doctors at Benghazi's Al Hawari hospital have no real idea how to prepare Ali Senussi for the news that awaits him when he is finally brought out of sedation in bed no 2 of the intensive care unit. First, the 26-year-old Libyan will be told that he has lost his left leg, the result of an emergency amputation after it was shredded by a shell during Gaddafi's siege of the nearby town of Ajdabiya. Then he will learn that his brother Abdelbaset, 19, has lost not one leg but two. His brother, Illafy, 23, has lost an arm. Finally, he will be told about his other brothers Ezzat, 33, and Saif, 29, who rest not in hospital beds but in a morgue. The fate of the five brothers gives a snapshot of the human cost of the conflict.

- NZ Herald

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