- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

BELGRADE, SERBIA (AP) - Five years after their leader Slobodan Milosevic died while on trial for genocide, some Serb nationalists have found a new idol: Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

A Facebook group supporting the Libyan leader has gathered more than 66,000 “likes” by Tuesday, reflecting the deep hatred that some Serbs feel for the West over the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, which ended Belgrade’s rule over the former province of Kosovo.

“The same aggressors who were murdering us, now are relentlessly attacking the Libyan people,” said the extremist Nasi organization _ an affiliate of the Russian group with the same name _ which is behind social media support campaign for Gadhafi.

“We launched the campaign out of defiance to the West and true support to a friend,” the group added.

The campaigners have put up posters of Gadhafi in the capital Belgrade, handed out leaflets and called for protests against the Western bombing of his troops. Backers on Facebook have compared the Libya bombing campaign _ authorized by a U.N. Security Council resolution to protect Libyan civilians _ to the 78 days of NATO airstrikes against Serbia.

“Have we forgotten the sound of air sirens?” Nebojsa Grmusa writes on the Facebook, asking: “Do we remember what it’s like when the whole world hates you and you don’t know why?”

Joining in is Slobodan Ilkic, who adds that Gadhafi is “one of the rare world politicians who was ready to question the network of lies that had turned the Serbs into Nazis after Nazis.”

Back in 1999, Serb nationalists felt their nation was the victim of Western propaganda that portrayed Serbs as villains in the Balkan conflict in order to bomb the country and strip it of Kosovo, the former ethnic Albanian-populated province that later declared independence in 2008.

The West would say that NATO airstrikes began to stop Serb forces from attacking Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians.

Today, some Serbs ridicule Western claims that the air war in Libya is being waged to protect civilians against attacks by Gadhafi’s forces. A Facebook supporter declares, “NATO is bombing Libya because of its oil.”

The group’s profile on the social network features a black-and-white photo of Gadhafi, one of his hands raised, and a caption in Cyrillic letters reading: “Support to a Friend.”

Other photos posted online include one with Gadhafi at U.N. headquarters in New York holding a leaflet reading: “Kosovo is Serbia!”

While Serbia’s pro-Western government has not openly supported the Western bombing of Gadhafi’s forces, Belgrade has suspended all cooperation with his government in line with a U.N. resolution.

This has infuriated Serb nationalists, who remember Gadhafi’s support for Serbia during international sanctions imposed on Milosevic in the 1990s.

Despite its big support on social media, the pro-Gadhafi Facebook group managed to gather only a few hundred supporters when it called for street protests in Belgrade last month.

Serbian media have reported that Serb support for Gadhafi has been welcomed by the Libya’s state-run media, while the Libyan opposition has warned that the pro-Gadhafi camp likely enjoys financial backing from nationalist Serb parties.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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