TRIPOLI, Libya, April 26 (UPI) -- Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are using women and children as human shields to protect themselves from attacks in Misurata, witnesses said.
Rebels told how Gadhafi's troops have been using the new tactic as NATO airplanes struck Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli, The Daily Mail reported Tuesday.
"Gadhafi's men were taunting us and laughing as they disappeared with our women and children," said Absa Salam, one of the leaders of the revolution against the Libyan dictator's 42-year rule. "There was nothing we could do. We knew, and they knew, that we'd kill our own people if we tried to kill them. These people are barbarians, devils."
NATO warplanes destroyed buildings around Gadhafi's seat of power in Tripoli. Military leaders said the raid was a failed attempt on the Libyan leader's life. More than 45 people were hurt in the strike.
The airstrikes come as British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned colleagues Tuesday Britain and its allies must be ready to be in Libya for a while, as weeks of airstrikes show little sign of unseating Gadhafi, the British newspaper reported.
Hague added there were "grounds for optimism" about progress made 38 days after international military action began.
NATO officials Tuesday said the alliance was "steadily and deliberately" degrading Gadhafi's military capabilities as it fulfills the U.N. Security Council's mandate to protect Libyan civilians from the threat of attack.
Since taking over command of Operation Unified Protector March 31, its warplanes flew more than 3,700 sorties and more than 1,500 strike sorties, NATO said on its Web site.
Besides the strike on Gadhafi's compound, NATO aircraft destroyed multiple-rocket launchers, armored personnel carriers, bunkers and storage facilities in and around Misurata, Tripoli and Sirte, the military alliance said.
"We are bringing all our capabilities to bear on all parts of the Gadhafi regime that remain intent on harming the civilian population," NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said. "As decided by the foreign ministers of NATO and operational partners, we will keep up the pressure until all attacks against civilians have stopped, Gadhafi's forces have withdrawn to bases and full and unimpeded humanitarian access has been ensured."