NATO airstrikes pound Libyan capital

Alliance claims it targeted a command and control centre in Tripoli, but regime claims children among those injured.

    NATO has launched missile strikes against a military command centre in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, while witnesses said blasts were heard near Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's compound and state television offices.

    NATO warplanes hit a command and control facility in downtown Tripoli, Brigadier General Claudio Gabellini, an Italian officer serving on the planning staff at NATO's headquarters in Naples, said on Tuesday.

    "All NATO targets are military targets," Gabellini said, denying that the coalition forces are targeting Gaddafi.

    "We have no evidence about what Mr Gaddafi is doing right now, and to tell you the truth we are not really interested."

    Witnesses said jets carried out eight strikes in roughly three hours in an unusually heavy bombardment of Tripoli, with four explosions rocking the Libyan capital shortly after 2am [0000 GMT] on Tuesday.

    They were quickly followed by two more blasts.

    A resident told Al Jazeera that an intelligence agency was also targeted by the strikes.


    Late on Monday, witnesses reported two explosions in the capital as jets flew overhead, adding that smoke was rising from a site near the offices of Libyan television and state news agency JANA.

    "It started off at the [Libyan state] TV station," Trabulsia, a resident in Tripoli, told Al Jazeera.

    "After that ... there was six big hits, two were at the compound where Colonel Gaddafi stays and the other four were at an intelligence building in Zawiyyah Street.

    Rebels gain

    In Misurata, the rebel's only urban stronghold in western Libya, a doctor said the opposition forces had pushed outward to Dafniya, a town on western outskirts, the Associated Press news agency reported.

    The doctor, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, said fighting was taking place both in Dafniya and near the airport south of Misurata. If the rebels are able to cross past Dafniya, it would increase the prospects of a further advance through the coastal town of Zlitan and toward Tripoli itself.

    The rebels posted video clips calling on Gaddafi forces in the area to surrender, adding that they had advanced about 25km outward from central Misurata.

    "We are after you Gaddafi," one of the fighters in the video said.

    In eastern Libya, rebels reported ongoing fighting between the towns of Ajdabiya and Brega.

    A rebel commander, Zakaria al-Mismari, told reporters that Gaddafi's forces had advanced on their positions with about a dozen vehicles on Monday, but were beaten back.

    The rebel army has been bogged down for weeks near Ajdabiya, unable to move on to Brega, which has an oil terminal and Libya's second-largest hydrocarbon complex.

    'Civilians wounded'

    Meanwhile, Libyan officials said on Tuesday that four children had been wounded by flying glass caused by blasts from the NATO strikes in the Tripoli area.
    "Two of the children were seriously hurt and are in intensive care in hospital," said one official.

    Officials took foreign journalists twice to Tripoli's Dahmani neighbourhood to see what they said were the results of NATO strikes.

    On the first visit, journalists saw a government building housing the high commission for children that had been completely destroyed. The old colonial building had been damaged before in what officials said was a NATO strike on April 30.

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    A guard at the site said the building was hit around 11pm (2100 GMT) on Monday. There were no reports of casualties in those strikes.

    Valerie Amos, the UN humanitarian chief, has called for a pause in hostilities to allow food, water, medical supplies and other aid to be delivered to needy populations.

    Amos said she was concerned the fighting was limiting access to supplies, and that civilians were still coming under fire. She told the Security Council that the pause would also allow humanitarian workers to evacuate people.

    On Tuesday, a Tripoli resident told Al Jazeera it was impossible to get fuel in the capital city. "People have started to buy bikes, and tried to eliminate their going out. It has been impossible to get any cooking fuel. The food is getting out, the medication is almost out," she said.

    NATO warning

    The blasts came after Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO chief, said time was running out for Gaddafi, who "should realise sooner rather than later that there's no future for him or his regime".

    An international coalition began carrying out strikes on pro-Gaddafi forces on March 19, under a UN resolution to protect civilians. NATO took command of operations over Libya on March 31.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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