Rows of women in army uniform adjust their shoulder weapons to firing position. A female officer shouts orders to operators of an anti-tank weapon. Indoors, more women officers decode Morse code messages.
This is no live exercise.It's part of a show staged for Western media at the Tripoli Military Academy for Girls nearly two weeks after U.N. sanctions were imposed on Libya over its refusal to surrender suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
"We are ready to fight imperialism, American interference and Zionist plots," said Soad Bashir, a middle-age instructor at the academy.
She told reporters she had sacrificed marriage and a family to devote her life to Col. Moammar Gadhafi's revolution, appealing to young girls to devote themselves "like nuns" to the revolution.
"We need more revolutionary women in Libya. We are aiming for 5 percent of the female population," she said. Libya has 4.2 million people.
The academy has been operating since 1979, and some of its graduates have gone on to become bodyguards for Gadhafi, often appearing at his side at conferences.
Reporters for Western news organizations, barred by Libyan officials from news coverage for 10 days in the wake of the U.N.-imposed sanctions, were suddenly taken on a visit to the academy on Tuesday.
Gadhafi has said the West could wage war against Libya over his refusal to hand over the two suspects in the 1988 Pan Am bombing, which killed 270 people. Tensions between Libya and the West rose when the United Nations on April 15 banned air links and arms sales to Libya and urged countries to order reductions in Libyan diplomats abroad.
The military school accepts all women ages 17-25 from any country, said instructor Nowara Mohammed. Neither she nor other instructors could give reporters the number of annual graduates.
One instructor, Nagya Ramandan, said between 400 and 600 women attend the school annually. But only about 150 students, spanning the three-year program, demonstrated their abilities to reporters on Tuesday.
They were mostly Libyans with some Egyptians and Palestinians.
Ramadan, her hair covered by a pink scarf, spoke with enthusiasm of the Libyan woman's role and the importance of being equal to men.
"We must protect the revolution," she said. "It gave a lot to women."