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Libya's Gadhafi calls for volunteers, women answer

By David McKenzie, CNN
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Libya's fighting women
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Women in Libya are training to defend Moammar Gadhafi's regime
  • Women training with weapons is not an uncommon sight in Libya
  • Masoud: "I liked training and defending my country"

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is calling for fresh volunteers in a months-long war with rebels attempting to bring about an end to his 42-year rule -- and women of all ages are answering, CNN has learned.

Women from in and around Gadhafi's stronghold of Tripoli have been traveling south to a training facility in Bani Walid to practice with weapons, a common sight in a country where young girls receive military training in schools.

As NATO's airstrikes crossed the 100-day mark and rebels continue to fight to oust Gadhafi, he is tapping everything and everyone in his arsenal to hold on to power.

At the training facility in Bani Walid, women are training to "defend Moammar and the country," said Sgt. Faraj Ramadan, a woman who is training other women to properly handle weapons.

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"They train to use it, assemble it and take it apart, and to shoot," she told CNN recently. "They were trained and got excellent scores."

At a recent graduation at the facility, 40-year-old Fatima Masoud said she liked the training. She said she left her textile job every day at 4 p.m. to train.

"I liked training and defending my country, and now I'm am training women from all ages to use weapons," she said.

It is unclear how many have answered Gadhafi's call or how many had graduated from the program at Bani Walid.

But women are fighting alongside government forces.

A woman, who did not want to identified, fresh from the frontlines, attended the graduation. She was still wearing a cannula in her wrist.

"Do not underestimate any woman in Libya, whether old or young," the woman said. "The woman is still able to perform more than you think."

Gadhafi's government claims it has handed out more than a million weapons to civilians since the uprising began. CNN cannot independently verify the claim.