Muammar Gaddafi arming volunteers: Pentagon

The Pentagon says Muammar Gaddafi "has virtually no air defence left to him".

Washington: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is arming volunteers as he battles an opposition uprising, the Pentagon says.

"We`ve received reports today that he has taken to arming what he calls volunteers to fight the opposition," Vice Admiral William Gortney said on Friday.

"I`m not sure... if they are truly volunteers or not and I don`t know how many of these recruits he`s going to get, but I find it interesting that he may now feel it necessary to seek civilian reinforcements."

The official said Gaddafi "has virtually no air defence left to him and a diminishing ability to command and sustain his forces on the ground" following seven days of coalition air raids.

"His Air Force cannot fly, his warships are staying in port, his ammunitions stores are being destroyed, communications towers are being toppled, his command bunkers rendered useless," Gortney said.

Earlier, officials said the United States fired 16 new Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libyan targets on Thursday and Friday as part of the US role in the UN-mandated mission to protect Libyan civilians.

The new missile launches brought the total number of Tomahawks used by US and coalition forces to at least 170 as they enforce a UN resolution to set up a no-fly zone over Libya to stop air attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces.

Bureau Report