Did NATO kill 85 Libyan Villagers As Qaddafi Regime Contends?

This news report from Haaretz 09/08/11 is typical:

The Libyan government said Tuesday that a NATO airstrike near the western city of Zlitan had killed 85 villagers, including children, state television reported - a claim swiftly called into question by the military alliance.

Footage showed what the broadcaster said were the burned bodies of at least three children under the age of 9 in a hospital. It also showed women and children being treated for injuries. The country is to hold a three-day mourning for the deaths, the channel reported.

The report said the victims were from the village of Majar, which is near Zlitan, to the east of the capital Tripoli, where NATO forces have been intensifying their strikes on government troops.

However this report was quickly disputed by NATO:

NATO spokesman Col. Roland Lavoie said the Libyan claim of civilian casualties in an airstrike near the western front-line town of Zlitan "was not corroborated by available factual information at the site."

NATO aircraft hit a staging base and military accommodation 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Zlitan, Lavoie said from the operational command in Naples, Italy. Four buildings and nine vehicles within the compound were struck with precision-guided munitions, he said.

"With our surveillance capabilities, we monitored this military compound very carefully before striking it," Lavoie said. "A number of military or mercenary casualties were expected due to the nature of the activity we monitored."

"Our assessment, based on the level of destruction of the buildings, confirms the likelihood of military and mercenary casualties," he said.

AP reported:

State television also showed funerals for dozens of civilians it said were killed in the NATO airstrike near Zlitan, about 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.

The channel has been airing images in black and white to honor a three-day mourning period for the 85 people the government said lost their lives in Zlitan.

A day earlier, state television ran images of Libyans rummaging through the rubble of buildings the government said were destroyed by the airstrike. They were shown digging out body parts and piling dead babies in sacks in the back of ambulances. It said 33 children and 32 women were among those killed.

The Telegraph had a reporter on the scene and filed this report:

Despite discrepancies at the bomb sites, regime spokesmen said that 20 families in Majar, a remote village on a ridge overlooking the rebel enclave of Misurata, had been killed in airstrikes.

While up to seven homes were destroyed by large scale explosions, there was no evidence of the scale of slaughter suggested by officials.

Ten miles away at Zlitan hospital officials put bodies said to have been recovered from the site on display. One woman and two infant corpses lay alongside men of military age.

At least one ruined home bore the hallmarks of family life but debris from the destruction contained relatively few clues to the lives of the occupants.

Only a few traces of blood were smeared the rubble of the houses and there was no sign that bodies had been dragged through the dust.

With Nato's rules of engagement imposing strict safeguards to protect civilian life, Col Gaddafi's forces have an incentive operate from compounds occupied by families.

A green army belt that one official quickly removed from the side of a teddy bear indicated that the army had established a presence in the area.

BBC World News reported:

The BBC's Matthew Price says he saw about 30 white body bags at the hospital, while on a guided government tour.

Half the bags were opened to the media, he says, with the majority revealing men of fighting age, and also two children and two women.The BBC's Matthew Price says he saw about 30 white body bags at the hospital, while on a guided government tour.

Half the bags were opened to the media, he says, with the majority revealing men of fighting age, and also two children and two women.

Libyan State TV ran this report [warning very disturbing content]:

While these claims and counter-claims have been battling each other in cyberspace, the Libyan Youth Movement website published this report, together with a video:

Gaddafi PM Baghdadi Mahmudi’s phone call to use dead children for propaganda (English Subtitles)
Posted on August 10, 2011
This recorded telephone call is allegedly between the Gaddafi regime’s Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi and another man in which they plot to take three dead children from a hospital, plant them at a known site, and have the government spokesman, Musa Ibrahim, report from there using the children as casualties to further their propaganda. We cannot independently verify the identity of the callers in this recording.

If true, it shows just how far the Qaddafi regime is willing to go to fabricated charges that NATO is killing Libyan civilians and calls into question Tuesday's claim that NATO killed 85 civilians and all such claims. It certainly doesn't mean that NATO isn't killing some civilians in Libya, but it doe means that all such claims by the Qaddafi regime that have not been independently verified can not be believed.

Did NATO really kill 85 civilians as the Qaddafi regime claims? You'll have to make up your own mind but look for updates here as this story develops.

For more background on the Libyan Revolution and links to lots of information see my other writings at the DailyKos and WikiLeaks Central:
CCDS Statement on Libya - a Critique
The Assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younis
NATO over Tripoli - Air Strikes in the Age of Twitter
How Many Libyans has NATO Killed?
Qaddafi Terror Files Start to Trickle Out!
Have Libyan Rebels Committed Human Rights Abuses?
Tripoli Green Square Reality Check
Behind the Green Curtain: Libya Today
Gilbert Achcar on the Libyan situation and the Left
NATO slammed for Libya civilian deaths NOT!
2011-07-01 Qaddafi's Million Man March
NATO's Game Plan in Libya
February 21st - Tripoli's Long Night
Did Qaddafi Bomb Peaceful Protesters?
Tripoli Burn Notice
Libyans, Palestinians & Israelis
'Brother' Qaddafi Indicted plus Libya & Syria: Dueling Rally Photofinishs
An Open Letter to ANSWER
ANSWER answers me
2011-06-22 No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya Forum
Are they throwing babies out of incubators yet?
Continuing Discussion with a Gaddafi Supporter
Boston Globe oped supports Gaddafi with fraudulent journalism
2011-04-13 Doha summit supports Libyan rebels
Current Events in Libya
Amonpour Plays Softball with Gaddafi
Arming Gaddfi
North African Revolution Continues
Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation