TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Friday threatened to attack Europe if NATO continued bombing his country.
In a recorded message broadcast to a large crowd gathered in Tripoli’s central square, Gadhafi said that Libyans would “target your homes, offices, families, which would become legitimate targets.”
“These people are able to one day take this battle to Europe,” he said as the crowd shouted slogans against the West.
Shortly after the speech, a series of blasts believed to have been NATO bombs thundered through the capital. The military coalition has been bombing Libya for more than three months in an effort to protect civilians from the brutal crackdown Gadhafi’s forces launched to quell an uprising in February.
The speech was one of Gadhafi’s most menacing in recent months. He and his supporters have sought to shift the focus of the conflict that plunged the country into civil war, portraying it as the West’s latest attempt to invade and exploit a Muslim nation.
The crowd’s size and vigor suggested that the beleaguered leader still has sizable support in the capital.
“Down, down Sarkozy!” protesters chanted, referring to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country has been a leading member of the NATO campaign.
A leading dissident in Tripoli said the city was heavily policed Friday and that the government appeared to allow only its supporters into Green Square.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States took Gadhafi’s threat seriously.
“This is an individual who’s obviously capable of carrying out these kinds of threats,” Toner said at a news conference. “That’s what makes him so dangerous.”