Nato accused of killing nine Libyan civilians in airstrike

The Libyan government accused Nato of killing nine civilians in an airstrike on a residential neighbourhood in the capital early yesterday, adding to its charges that the alliance is striking non-military targets.

It was not possible to independently verify the government's account of what happened. Nato said it was investigating. The alliance has repeatedly insisted it tries to avoid killing civilians.

The allegations are likely to provide supporters of Muammar Gaddafi's regime a fresh rallying point against the international intervention in Libya's civil war.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Foreign minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi said nine civilians, including two children, were killed in the explosion and 18 people were wounded. He said the strike was a "deliberate attack on a civilian neighbourhood" and follows other alleged targeting of non-military targets such as a hotel, oxygen factory and civilian vehicles.

"The deliberate bombing ... is a direct call for all free peoples of the world and for all Muslims to initiate a global jihad against the oppressive, criminal West and never to allow such criminal organizations as Nato to decide the future of other independent and sovereign nations," Mr al-Obeidi said.

Shortly after the airstrikes before dawn yesterday, journalists based in the Libyan capital were rushed by government officials to the destroyed building, which appeared to have been partially under construction. Reporters were escorted back to the site during the day, where children's toys, teacups and dust-covered mattresses could be seen amid the rubble.

Journalists were shown at least four people said to have been killed in the strike, including the two young children.

Resident Salem Ali Garadi, 51, said his brother and sister were among the victims.

Libya's health ministry said 856 civilians have been killed in Nato airstrikes since they began in March. The figure could not be independently confirmed, and government figures from other incidents have proved to be exaggerated.

Nato acknowledged its planes hit targets in Tripoli in the early hours and said it was investigating whether it was responsible for the alleged strike on the house.

"Nato confirms that it was operating in Tripoli last night, conducting airstrikes against a legitimate military target," Wing Commander Mike Bracken said in a statement last night. He added that the alliance was looking into the reports.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Nato deeply regrets any civilian loss of life during this operation and would be very sorry if the review of this incident concluded it to be a Nato weapon," he said.

A later Nato statement said the incident "is said to have occurred ... following a deliberate strike which targeted a missile site operated by pro-Gaddafi forces."The alliance struck Tripoli again yesterday afternoon. A number of explosions could be heard in the city, and smoke could be seen rising over the southern part of the capital.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States launched the first strikes against Gaddafi's forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on 19 March. Nato, which was joined by a number of Arab allies, assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on 31 March.

Related topics: