Published on
Agence France Presse

Heaviest NATO Air Strikes Rock Tripoli


Sky over Tripoli, Libya, is illuminated by explosions during an airstrike, early Tuesday, May 24, 2011. NATO warplanes were repeatedly hitting Tripoli early Tuesday in what appears to be the heaviest night of bombing of the Libyan capital since the start of the air campaign against Moammar Gadhafi's forces. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

TRIPOLI, Libya — Powerful explosions rocked Tripoli Tuesday as NATO launched its heaviest bombardment yet of the capital, while France and Britain piled pressure on Moammar Gadhafi by bringing attack helicopters into the Libya fray.

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters that at least three people died and 150 were wounded in the air strikes, which he said targeted a deserted military barracks but which instead hit civilians living nearby.

An AFP journalist said the raids lasting more than half an hour began at around 1:00 am when powerful blasts were heard in the sector around Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya residence.

More than 15 strong blasts were heard in the neighbourhood, with the sound of warplanes roaring overhead.

NATO rejected the claim that the strikes had targeted a barracks and said a vehicle storage facility had been struck.

"Overnight a regime vehicle storage facility adjacent to the Bab al-Aziziyah complex in Tripoli was struck by NATO aircraft using a number of precision guided weapons," said the NATO operation's commander Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard in a statement on Tuesday.

"This facility is known to have been active during the initial regime suppression of the population in February 2011 and has remained so ever since; resupplying the regime forces that have been conducting attacks against innocent civilians."

In another boost to forces fighting to oust the Libyan strongman, France said it would provide attack helicopters for NATO's air campaign along with Britain, and the EU widened sanctions against Gadhafi's forces.

The helicopters, a weapon that has yet to be used by NATO in Libya, will help the Western alliance strike regime military assets hidden in urban areas while avoiding civilian casualties, French ministers said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, on the sidelines of meetings of European Union foreign and defence ministers in Brussels, said Paris was deploying Tigre and Gazelle class helicopters aboard an aircraft carrier.

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said separately that London would deploy helicopters aboard its HMS Ocean aircraft carrier as soon as possible.

On Monday, Washington urged Gadhafi to leave Libya as its most senior envoy to date held talks in the rebel capital Benghazi.

"The United States remains committed to protecting Libyan civilians and believes that Gadhafi must leave power and Libya," said the U.S. representative's office to the rebels' National Transitional Council.


Our Summer Campaign Is Underway

Support Common Dreams Today

Independent News and Views Putting People Over Profit

Washington's call came a day after the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, opened an EU office in Benghazi and declared the 27-member bloc's "long-term support" to the rebels.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was in Benghazi for talks with the rebel leadership in a three-day visit that the U.S. office called "another signal of the U.S.'s support for the NTC, a legitimate and credible interlocutor for the Libyan people."

Britain, France, Gambia, Italy and Qatar have already recognized the rebel council as their sole interlocutor in Libya.

The EU tightened the screws on Gadhafi.

An EU assets freeze and travel ban against Gadhafi loyalists and firms suspected of propping up the regime was extended to a member of the Libyan leader's inner circle and a Libyan airline, an EU diplomat said, on condition of anonymity.

In another bonus for the rebels, EU ministers termed the NTC "a key political interlocutor representing the aspirations of the Libyan people."

In Moscow, a rebel negotiator told Russia after meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Benghazi would never negotiate with Gadhafi and viewed the West's current military intervention as fair.

Russia abstained from the UN Security Council resolution on Libya in March that essentially authorized military action.

But the Kremlin has since accused the West of exceeding the UN mandate and becoming entangled in a full-blown military operation in Libya.

On the ground, there was little movement in the battle lines.

Rebel military spokesman Ahmed Omar Bani said the frontline between the rebel-held east and the mainly government-held west remained between the strategic crossroads town of Ajdabiya and the oil refinery town of Brega.

Bani said rebel fighters who earlier this month broke the loyalist siege of Libya's third-largest city Misrata — the rebels' most significant bastion in the west — had pushed on towards Zliten, the next town along the coastal road towards Tripoli.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Share This Article

More in: