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Medic: Gadhafi used injured tot as NATO 'victim'

/ Source: news services

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's aides brought foreign media to a hospital on Sunday to see a baby they described as a wounded victim of a NATO airstrike.

However, a hospital staff member told a journalist the infant was in fact injured in a car crash.

Government media handlers brought reporters first to a farm on the outskirts of the city, where a man said his dog and several chickens had been killed by a missile strike on Sunday.

The man said no people were injured, although other people in the area later told some journalists they had heard children were hurt.

The journalists were then brought to a hospital in the center of the capital and taken to the bed of an unconscious infant girl hooked up to medical equipment.

'This is the truth'
A man appeared at the bedside and said he was the girl's uncle, and she had been injured in Sunday's missile strike.

However, a member of the hospital's staff passed one of the foreign journalists a handwritten note on hospital stationery, which said in English: "This is a case of road traffic accident. This is the truth."

No uniformed member of the hospital staff spoke to the journalists.

At the hospital, a man in civilian clothes — presented to cameras as a neighbor of the injured girl — leaned over her, shouted "God, Moammar, Libya and that's all!," a common pro-Gadhafi slogan, and denounced NATO.

The same man was present later that night at a separate media event, where he acknowledged to Reuters that he was employed by the Gadhafi government's media operations team.

Gadhafi's government says more than 700 civilians have been killed and more than 4,000 wounded by NATO airstrikes. However, the media team has not shown foreign reporters based in Tripoli any evidence of large numbers of civilian casualties.

Libyan officials were not available to comment on the hospital staff member's note, or their representation of a member of their media staff as a neighbor of the injured girl. Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim's telephone was not answered.

NATO leaders say they are bombing only military targets in Libya to protect civilians, and will not stop until Gadhafi steps down. Gadhafi's government says the airstrikes are colonial aggression aimed at controlling Libya's oil reserves.

Barracks targeted
Meanwhile, British jets hit a military barracks in the Libyan capital Sunday, intensifying NATO pressure on Gadhafi.

The airstrikes on the barracks — repeated targets of NATO strikes — followed the Western alliance's first use of attack helicopters Saturday.

By intensifying attacks from the air and using helicopters to target government forces who melt into the civilian population for cover, NATO is providing a major boost to Libyan rebel forces who have seized much of the country's east and toeholds in the west.

Emboldened rebels in recent days have forced government troops from three western towns and broke the siege of a fourth.

Gadhafi has been seen in public rarely and heard even less frequently since a NATO airstrike on his compound killed one of his sons on April 30. That has led to speculation about the physical and mental condition of the 69-year-old dictator, who has ruled Libya since 1969.