NATO accused Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Saturday of using mosques and children's parks as shields for his military operations, saying the longtime ruler who lashed out against alliance airstrikes is the one "brutally attacking the Libyan people."
In a telephone call piped through loudspeakers to a few thousand people demonstrating in Tripoli's Green Square on Friday, Gaddafi railed against NATO following a day of intensified bombing runs in the capital. NATO's mandate is to protect civilians amid a four-month uprising that has devolved into a civil war.
"NATO will be defeated," Gaddafi yelled in a hoarse, agitated voice to the crowd. "They will pull out in defeat."
In Brussels on Saturday, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu dismissed Gaddafi's speech as "outrageous."
"We are saving countless lives every day across the country," she said. "We are conducting operations with utmost care and precision to avoid civilian casualties. Civilian casualty figures mentioned by the Libyan regime are pure propaganda."
She also accused Gaddafi and his regime of "systematically and brutally attacking the Libyan people," saying government forces "have been shelling cities, mining ports and using mosques and children's parks as shields."
Lungescu's comments also counter allegations from Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, who accused NATO on Friday of a "new level of aggression" and said the military alliance has intentionally targeted civilian buildings in recent days, including a hotel and a university.
"It has become clear to us that NATO has moved on to deliberately hitting civilian buildings. ... This is a crime against humanity," he told reporters in the capital.