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‘Holy War’ against America; U.S. ‘Spies’ Threatened

March 26, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Libya on Tuesday threatened to take its ″holy war″ against the United States beyond the Gulf of Sidra naval battleground, striking at American military bases across the Mediterranean, reports from the Libyan capital said.

In a second day of confrontation between Libyan forces and the U.S. 6th Fleet, thousands of Libyans rallied in Tripoli in an angry anti-American protest, and the official Libyan radio called for death for American consultants it said were ″spying″ in the Middle East.

A diplomat in Tripoli said, however, that no threats had been made against the 100 or 200 Americans believed still in the North African nation.

NBC News showed a film clip Tuesday night of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Khadafy at an international trade fair in Tripoli, and he told the network’s correspondent, Bonnie Anderson, ″It is a time of war, a time of confrontation. And we have decided the Gulf of Sirte (Sidra) is ours. We have decided this by sacrifice, by blood.″

She asked him, ″What about the Americans living in Libya?″ and he replied, ″They are our guests. We are a civilized people.″

Foreign ambassadors in Tripoli were summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday and told that Libya would confront the U.S. ″aggression″ against it ″with all its means,″ said the official Libyan news agency, JANA, in a dispatch monitored in Rome.

The agency said the ministry reiterated Libya’s claim that the Gulf of Sidra is its territory.

″We will die for it and there is no capitulation on that, whatever the cost.... We in Libya will consider any American target and the American and Mediterranean bases hostile targets which we will confront,″ the agency quoted the ministry as stating.

The threat clearly was aimed at U.S. military bases in Sicily and elsewhere in southern Italy.

The Italian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Khadafy’s government describing such threats as ″absolutely unacceptable.″

Khadafy, meanwhile, replied defiantly to U.S. statements that the American fleet maneuvers off Libya would continue until Sunday.

″We also declare that our brave confrontation will also continue,″ he was quoted as saying in a JANA dispatch.

The U.S.-Libyan clashes broke out Monday as the 6th Fleet challenged Libya’s claim to the Gulf of Sidra by sending aircraft over the disputed waters.

In Washington Tuesday, U.S. officials said at least four Libyan patrol boats had been struck by missiles fired by U.S. Navy warplanes and the Navy cruiser Yorktown on Monday and Tuesday. Two boats were sunk and two were damaged, they said.

They said U.S. planes also struck again Tuesday at a Soviet-built anti- aircraft missile site at Sirte on Libya’s Mediterranean shoreline. It was reported damaged.

The United States said the first U.S. counter-attack was provoked Monday by Libya’s firing of six missiles at American aircraft. American officials said there was no new hostile Libyan fire Tuesday, but Libya’s ″hostile intentions″ were evident.

Only sketchy reports came from Libya on the military situation. The Libyan radio made no mention of new attacks, only repeating Monday’s assertion that Libyan missiles had downed three U.S. planes, a claim denied by the United States.

In an earlier report Tuesday, the Libyan radio, monitored in Cyprus, said it had learned that U.S. attacks - apparently referring to Monday’s - caused no damage to the Sirte missile base. It did not elaborate.

The Libyan news agency said U.S. Navy planes had attacked a civilian Libyan ship Monday but did not hit it. But another report by the agency said U.S. aircraft had attacked tugboats sent to assist a ship that had been hit by U.S. fire.

The varying reports could not be independently verified. There was no official word on casualties in the clashes. U.S. officials estimated the Libyan boats that were attacked carried crews totaling 150 men.

West European diplomats in the seaside Libyan capital, reached by telephone from Rome, said several thousand Libyans demonstrated for 90 minutes Tuesday outside the Belgian Embassy, which has handled U.S. interests in Libya since Washington broke diplomatic relations with the Khadafy government six years ago. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity.

In a statement read aloud by a speaker, the protesters proclaimed, ″We declare that we have put ourselves in a state of maximum alert to sustain the holy war of confrontation against U.S. imperialism,″ a JANA report said.

In a staunchly Islamic country like Libya, a ″jihad″ - or ″holy war″ - connotes a struggle with both political and religious overtones.

The Libyan radio, in a broadcast monitored in Cyprus, reported anti- American demonstrations Tuesday ″in every city and village″ of Libya.

In another broadcast, the radio declared: ″The oil which America exploits and usurps should now be destroyed. The American bases in the Arab homeland should now be stormed.

″American spies who were pushed forward as experts and consultants should now be executed, wherever they might be in the Arab homeland,″ it said.

A State Department spokesman, Michael Austrian, estimated that perhaps ″a couple hundred″ Americans remain in Libya.

After bloody terrorist attacks at Rome and Vienna airports last Dec. 27 that the U.S. administration linked to Libya, President Reagan imposed economic sanctions on that country and ordered Americans to leave it by Feb. 1. Americans served as consultants in petroleum and construction industries.

An Italian diplomat in Tripoli, Marco Tornetta, reached by telephone from Rome, said Tuesday no threats had been made against the remaining Americans or other foreigners in Libya.

Tornetta described the city as calm, although he said the Libyan army had been mobilized.

In Damascus, Syria, the official Syrian news agency said Syria’s President Hafez Assad, a longtime Khadafy ally, conferred twice with the Libyan leader by telephone Monday and Tuesday. The Libyan agency said Assad offered to put ″all the Syrian Arab people’s capabilities″ at Libya’s disposal.

Assad’s chief aide, Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, arrived in Tripoli Tuesday to meet with Libyan officials, the agency said. Sudan’s military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Mohammed Tawfiq Khalil, also flew to the Libyan capital to express ″the Sudanese people’s stand by the fraternal Libyan people against American aggression.″

The Palestine National Salvation Front, an alliance of six Syrian-backed Palestinian groups, issued a statement vowing its guerrillas would make the United States ″pay heavily for this aggression″ by ″attacking every single American target or interest in the Middle East.″

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