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Woman's rape claim sets off brawl

A distraught Libyan woman stormed into a Tripoli hotel Saturday to tell foreign reporters that government troops raped her, setting off a brawl when hotel staff and government minders tried to detain her.

Iman al-Obeidi was tackled by waitresses and government minders as she sat telling her story to journalists after she rushed into the restaurant at the Rixos hotel where a number of foreign journalists were eating breakfast.

She claimed loudly that troops had detained her at a checkpoint, tied her up, abused her, then led her away to be gang raped.

Her story could not be independently verified, but the dramatic scene provided a rare firsthand glimpse of the brutal crackdown on public dissent by Moammar Gadhafi's regime as the Libyan leader fights a rebellion against his rule that began last month.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim originally said that investigators told him al-Obeidi was drunk and seemed to be suffering mentally, but he retreated from that position later Saturday. He said she was in custody and her claims were being investigated as a criminal case.

Before she was dragged out of the hotel, al-Obeidi managed to tell journalists that she was detained by a number of troops at a Tripoli checkpoint on Wednesday. She said they were drinking whiskey and handcuffed her. She said 15 men later raped her.

As al-Obeidi spoke, a hotel waitress brandished a butter knife, a government minder reached for his handgun and another waitress pulled a jacket tightly over her head.

It soon turned into a scene of chaos with journalists attempting to protect the woman from government minders who physically attacked and intimidated her.

Journalists who tried to intervene were pushed out of the way by the minders.

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