The U.S. defence chief on Sunday accused Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s forces of planting bodies at the sites of airstrikes carried out by the coalition enforcing the United Nations-authorised no-fly zone.

In an interview to be broadcast by CBS News, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the ploy was an attempt to contrive civilian casualties to be blamed on the U.S.-led coalition, which includes Britain and France.

“We do have a lot of intelligence reporting about Qadhafi taking the bodies of the people he’s killed and putting them at the sites where we’ve attacked,” he said in a taped interview, reported online by CBS News.

He praised the coalition air forces for being “extremely careful in this military effort.” Since March 19, the coalition has been taking out Libyan air defences and ground forces to enforce the U.N.-imposed no-fly zone.

On Saturday, a pro-Qadhafi military source accused the French and other allied air forces of committing “genocide” in Libya. “Colonial crusader aggression does not discriminate between unarmed civilians and military targets,” the source said.

Libyan officials quoted by broadcaster Al Jazeera allege that 100 people have so far been killed in the coalition airstrikes, without specifying civilian casualties.

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