Monday, June 20, 2011

NATO


Nato has admitted launching a missile strike against a compound that Libyan officials claim killed at least 15 people, including three children.
Nato said the four buildings in a rural area west of Tripoli were being used as an important command and control centre for attacks byMuammar Gaddafi's forces, and were a legitimate military target under the mandate of the UN resolution.
Monday's attack came 24 hours after Nato admitted that a rogue missile was responsible for the deaths of up to nine civilians in a raid early on Sunday that went wrong.
Libyan officials used Monday's bombing to claim Nato was deliberately targeting civilians as part of its military strategy, a claim emphatically denied by commanders in Naples and London, who said great care was being given to the campaign's conduct.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told the Associated Press that the alliance bombed the compound belonging to Khoweildi al-Hamidi outside the city of Surman, 40 miles west of the capital, at around 4am local time.
Al-Hamidi is a regime insider who took part in the 1969 coup that gave Gaddafi power. He reportedly commanded troops who crushed rebels in the western city of Zawiya in March, and his daughter is married to Gaddafi's son, Saadi.
Ibrahim said Hamidi escaped the air strikes unharmed but that three children, including two of Hamidi's grandchildren, were among the 15 people killed.
"They [Nato] are targeting civilians ... the logic is intimidation," Ibrahim said. "They want Libyans to give up the fight ... they want to break our spirit."
Foreign journalists based in the Libyan capital were taken by government officials to the walled compound, where the main two-storey buildings had been blasted to rubble.
A pair of massive craters could be seen in the dusty ground, and rescue service workers with sniffer dogs were searching for survivors.
In a hospital in the nearby city of Sabratha, staff showed journalists the bodies of at least 10 people, including those of two children, allegedly killed in the strike. Some of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
Nato said the attack had been ordered after careful monitoring of the site had shown beyond doubt it was being used by Gaddafi as an important command and control centre.
An official said the compound was responsible for directing "systematic attacks" against Libyan civilians, and its destruction would degrade the dictator's ability to launch further raids on his people.
Stung by criticism of the mistake that led to the deaths of civilians on Sunday, Nato insisted it was being extremely cautious in its targeting of sites, partly because it knows that Gaddafi has been hiding his remaining forces in civilian areas to shield them from attack.
Speaking shortly before an EU meeting in Luxembourg, the Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said Nato was "endangering its credibility ... we cannot risk killing civilians".
Nato said it had conducted 11,500 missions during the four month campaign, of which almost 4,500 had included missile strikes.
Sunday's destruction of a family home in Tripoli had probably been caused by one malfunctioning weapon, it said, and was deeply regrettable, but not indicative of the way the campaign was being run.

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