Published on
The Guardian/UK

Gaddafi Compound Hit in NATO Attack

Office building inside Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's Tripoli compound was destroyed in air strike

Harriet Sherwood in Tripoli

Senator John McCain, who visited Libya at the weekend, said that Gaddafi should be targeted but argued that it was more important to increase US firepower over Libya. Early Monday morning a Gaddafi compound was hit by air strikes. (Photo: REUTERS)

An office building inside Muammar Gaddafi's Tripoli compound has been destroyed early as NATO air strikes hit close to the base from where the Libyan leader is believed to be directing government strategy in the civil war.

At least two large missiles or bombs struck a multistory building in Bab al-Aziziya, the sprawling complex in the center of Tripoli, shortly after midnight. Another building, a ceremonial reception area where Gaddafi hosted a delegation from the African Union two weeks ago, was badly damaged.

The roof of the office building, which also housed a library in which Gaddafi liked to read according to an official, caved under the impact. The ground over a wide area was covered in shattered masonry, broken glass and metal, with pools of water forming between piles of rubble. Three hours after the blast, thick dust was still in the air when the foreign media was taken to the site.

Reports of light injuries from the blasts varied from none to 45. The Libyan leader's location was not known.

Gaddafi's supporters, who gather at Bab al-Aziziya nightly to act as human shields against NATO air strikes, climbed on the shattered building as chunks of masonry still fell. They waved loyalist green flags and chanted pro-Gaddafi and anti-NATO slogans.

Inside the second building, furniture, picture frames and chandeliers lay amid rubble and covered with dust. The South African president, Jacob Zuma, along with two other Africa presidents, held talks here with Gaddafi earlier this month on a peace proposal.

It was the second time NATO had struck inside the compound since its military campaign started. A missile hit another administrative building in the early days of the strikes, causing extensive damage.

In the early hours of Saturday, two missiles hit a site a few hundred meters from Bab al-Aziziya. NATO appeared to have targeted an underground bunker, which was visible from the craters caused by the missiles.

Three members of the US Senate armed service committee called on Sunday for more military intervention in Libya. Republican Lindsey Graham told CNN that Gaddafi "needs to wake up every day wondering: will this be my last?'"

Monday's strike on Gaddafi's compound followed two days of heavy assault on the besieged city of Misrata by government forces. Despite the Libyan government's claims that troops had pulled back from the city, forces on the ground stepped up shelling and rocket fire following gains made on the ground by rebels.

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