A Qaddafi-backed Libyan army unit attacked a mosque 30 miles west of Tripoli with anti-aircraft missiles and automatic weapons when protesters refused to cede to demands that they leave the area, the Associated Press reports. Although the attack could not be immediately confirmed, a witness told the AP that it resulted in heavy casualties.
According to the witness, an aide to Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi identified as Abdullah Megrahi warned the protesters to leave or be massacred, but the people inside the mosque -- mainly youths armed with hunting rifles -- agreed to stay. They had been sleeping inside the mosque and an outdoor lot for days, AP reports.
The targeting of a mosque in a Muslim country is an unusual move and symbolic of how violent the clashes between pro-Qaddafi forces and protesters have been.
"What is happening is horrible. Those who attacked us are not the mercenaries; they are sons of our country," the witness said while sobbing, according to the AP. "Now there is heavy gunfire. They bombed the minaret of the mosque."