Libya rebels claim strike on regime officials

Rebels say rare RPG attack hit meeting in Tripoli attended by Gaddafi's son, intelligence chief and prime minister.

    People gather near a portrait of Gaddafi in Tripoli's Green Square on Friday, before the explosions [Reuters]

    The Libyan capital was rocked by a series of explosions, thought to be the result of NATO airstrikes, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

    At least seven blasts were reported in Tripoli, including some near Bab al-Aziziya, a compound and command centre used by Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, that has been bombed numerous times before.

    There was no official word from the Libyan government on the targets or whether there were any casualties. NATO said it had struck a "command and control node".

    The explosions came after what the opposition said was a rare rebel attack on regime officials in the capital on Friday.

    Gaddafi's prime minister, al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, was injured when rebel fighters fired rockets at a building where a group of officials were supposedly meeting, said Ali Essawi, the rebels' foreign affairs chief.

    Gaddafi's intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, close aide Mansour Daw and prominent son Saif al-Islam were also in the room with Mahmoudi, Essawi told a news conference in Rome.

    A representative of the Free Generation Movement, an opposition group in the capital, said fighters had fired three rocket-propelled grenades at a building in the Hai al-Andalus neighbourhood.

    Senussi was uninjured, the activist said, but he did not mention the other officials allegedly present.

    Mousa Ibrahim, a regime spokesman, denied that an attack had taken place but acknowledged there had been an explosion, which he blamed on a kitchen gas cylinder.

    'Much misinformation'

    Although Gaddafi said on Thursday that he would not talk with the opposition seeking to end his 42-year-rule, his government is still interested in entering into a dialogue with the United States, Ibrahim said on Friday.

    Representatives of the two governments met in Tunisia last weekend.

    "We did explain many things to American officials. We realised they did not have the full picture; we corrected much misinformation," he said.

    Gaddafi is also encouraging his people to talk to rebels, but he will not speak to them himself, Ibrahim said.

    In addition to the rebel attacks the opposition has claimed in the capital, there have been advances on three fronts: near Benghazi in the east, the Nafusa Mountains in the west and in the Misurata area.

    After two days of fighting west of Misurata, rebels moved about 4km forward from Dafniyah, a small town between Zliten and Misurata, on Thursday.

    "We move forward [now] towards Zliten," said Ayman, an opposition field commander, referring to the coastal town 160km east of Tripoli.

    "We are now close to an area called Tuesday Market in Zliten and, God willing, we will liberate our people in Zliten soon from the forces of the tyrant."

    The Libyan government said that NATO air strikes targeted civilian sites in Zliten. 

    Foreign media were shown destroyed buildings and wounded civilians in the town.

    General 'captured'

    Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Misurata, said rebels claimed to have captured General Abdul Nabi Zayed, who allegedly co-ordinated the deployment of tanks into Misurata in March.

    Qatari munition-labelled boxes sent to Libya

    "According to the military commanders here in Misurata, Zayed was actually captured yesterday as they started their offensive towards the town of Zliten," she said.

    "He was slightly injured, so he was brought back to the hospital here in Misurata.

    "Its also a significant catch because it is happening at the time the opposition started their push towards Zliten.

    "They have made significant territorial gains. Rebel commanders are saying they are interrogating General Zayed and they are hoping he will give them significant information."

    In the Nafusa Mountains, rebels have recently captured the town of al-Qawalish and are looking to advance on Gharyan, the last regime stronghold in the area, which also controls a main road into Tripoli.

    Near Benghazi, rebels have recently mounted an attack on the oil port of Brega, which Gaddafi's forces have held since March.

    But fighters have not yet driven regime troops from the town, according to reports.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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