TRIPOLI, Libya — Supporters of Moammar Gadhafi rallied Thursday in Tripoli after the Libyan leader lashed out at NATO over civilian casualties, calling the alliance "murderers" following an airstrike on the family home of a close associate.
A few hundred supporters, most of them women, gathered in the capital's Green Square hours after the late-night speech, vowing to defend the Libyan leader against rebels seeking to oust him and NATO forces giving them air support.
Gadhafi also warned the alliance that its more than three-month mission in Libya is a "crusader's campaign" that could come back to haunt the West.
"What you are doing will rebound against you and against the world with destruction, desolation and terrorism. You are launching a second crusader war that might extend to Africa, Europe and America," he said in an audio address first aired on Libyan state television late Wednesday.
"Go on and attack us for two years, three years or even 10 years. But in the end, the aggressor is the one who will lose. One day we will be able to retaliate in the same way, and your houses will be legitimate targets for us," Gadhafi added.
The defiant address was the first from the Libyan leader since NATO targeted a compound Monday owned by Khoweildi al-Hamidi, a longtime regime insider whose daughter is married to one of Gadhafi's sons.
Gadhafi blasted the alliance for that strike, calling NATO "criminals" and "savages" and asking rhetorically: "Is this house a military target?"
Libya says 19 people, including at least three children and other civilians, were killed in that strike near the town of Surman, some 40 miles west of Tripoli. NATO has called the compound a "command and control" center and says it regrets any civilian deaths.
Funding for Libyan students resumes: About 2,000 Libyan students who attend U.S. colleges are getting a one-year reprieve in financial support after Libya resumed funding that was halted when the U.N. froze about $30 billion of that country's assets, the Canadian Bureau for International Education, which administers the funds, announced. The Libyan-North American Scholarship Program covers tuition and living allowances through May 2012 for the students and their dependents.
U.S. says all in struggle worry about al-Qaida
A senior U.S. diplomat pushing for a peaceful transfer of power in Yemen said Thursday that whichever side emerges from the four-month political crisis to lead the nation will cooperate with Washington in battling al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen. In talks with government officials and opposition figures seeking the president's ouster, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffery Feltman said all expressed an understanding of Washington's concerns about Yemen's al-Qaida branch, which has an estimated 300 fighters and has carried out several nearly successful strikes on U.S. targets. Feltman also delivered Washington's message that it wants to see a swift transfer of power in Yemen. Yemen's autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh is clinging to power despite daily protests since February calling for his ouster and an attack on his palace this month that badly wounded him and forced him to fly to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
Villagers flee as Syrian troops push to border
Syrian troops pushed to the Turkish border Thursday in their sweep against a 3-month-old pro-democracy movement, sending panicked refugees, including children, rushing across the frontier to safe havens in Turkey. The European Union, meanwhile, announced it was slapping new sanctions on the Syrian regime because of the "gravity of the situation," in which the Syrian opposition says 1,400 people have been killed in a relentless government crackdown. The Local Coordinating Committees, which track the Syrian protest movement, said residents reported tanks had entered the village and snipers were spotted on rooftops. Syria has banned foreign journalists and restricted local media, making it nearly impossible to independently confirm the accounts.