Africa

Malians cheer Gaddafi as they host Libya football team

Crowds at the Bamako stadium on 28 March 2011
Image caption The crowd shouted "Gaddafi! Gaddafi!" after each goal

Thousands of Malians turned out to cheer on Libya's football team in an African Cup of Nations qualifier in Mali's capital.

The match was held in Bamako because of security concerns in Libya.

About 20,000 Malians turned out to watch the game, many carrying posters protesting against the Western-led military intervention in Libya.

"We were very touched by the Malian crowd," captain Tariq Ibrahim al-Tayib told the BBC after beating Comoros 3-0.

Bamako-based journalist Martin Vogl says Mali's government has a close relationship with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and he enjoys a lot of support in the country.

After each goal at the game on Monday evening, the crowd shouted: "Gaddafi! Gaddafi," he said.

Mr Tayib said that several players had not been able to play because they were based in Benghazi, the main town held by forces fighting Col Gaddafi.

But he said there were no political divisions in the national football side.

"The whole team is for Muammar Gaddafi," he said.

"We dedicate this victory to the Libyan people who are suffering," he told Associated Press.

On Friday, thousands of Libyans took to the streets of Bamako to show their support for Libya's long-time leader - marching in protest to the French and US embassies against their involvement in the military campaign against Col Gaddafi.

France, the US and UK started bombing pro-Gaddafi forces earlier this month after a UN Security Council resolution was passed backing action to protect civilians.

Col Gaddafi had vowed to wipe out protesters who were demanding that he leave power after 42 years.

The intervention stopped pro-Gaddafi forces from attacking Benghazi.