Ahmedabad Mirror & Maria Golovnina / Reuters & Al Jazeera – 2011-03-22 01:21:44
Jets Bomb Gaddafiâ€™s Command Centre
TRIPOLIi (March 22, 2011) — Coalition airstrikes bombed Libya’s air defence systems for a second night in which a missile flattened a building housing Muammar Gaddafi’s command centre, very close to his private residence in Tripoli, even as the US insisted he is not on the target list.
The missile launched during operations by US and European forces to patrol the no-fly zone destroyed what one coalition official described as Gaddafi’s “command and control capability” inside the Libyan leader’s compound at Bab el-Aziziya, south of capital Tripoli.
It was unclear where Gaddafi, 68, was at the time of the strike, which was part of a renewed allied assault on Libya, involving British submarines and RAF Tornado jets. The three-storey building which was flattened is 50 metres from Gaddafi’s iconic tent where he generally meets guests in Tripoli.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said, “This was a barbaric bombing which could have hit hundreds of civilians gathered at the residence of Muammar Gaddafi about 400 meters away from the building which was hit,” Ibrahim said.
Smoke was seen rising from within the heavily fortified compound which houses Gaddafi’s private quarters as well as military barracks. A Libyan official displayed to reporters a piece of shrapnel, apparently from the missile, at the ruined building.
Gaddafi vows to protect Libyan oil from UK, US
Meanwhile, Gaddafi said that he would pay back the Christians, as he put it, and that “we will not leave our oil for the US, France, Britain, or any Christian country. We will fight for every centimetre.”
Pentagon spokesman Vice-Admiral William Gortney, however, said at a news briefing in Washington, “We are not going after Gaddafi. At this particular point I can guarantee he is not on the target list.”
Forces loyal to Gaddafi are bringing civilians from nearby towns to the rebel-held city of Misrata to use as human shields, a rebel spokesman said on Monday. The report could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Libyan officials.
The spokesman said seven people were killed in Misrata in fighting on Sunday. He added that armed pro-Gaddafi forces, dressed in civilian clothes, were in the city. He said the city, 200 km east of Tripoli, was surrounded by Gaddafi’s troops and water supplies were still cut off.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that his country expects to hand over the leadership of the military operations against Libya to a coalition likely to be headed by the French, the British or NATO “in a matter of days.”
“There are a couple of possibilities: one is British and French leadership, another is the use of NATO. I think we have to work out the control that is most accommodating to all of members of the coalition,” Gates said.
Claiming a “strong and successful” start to Operation Odyssey Dawn, he conceded that Arab nations are reluctant to work under the command and control structure of NATO forces, so this would be kept in mind while deciding the leadership of the coalition.
Libya Says West Has Bombed Tripoli Gaddafi Complex
Maria Golovnina / Reuters
TRIPOLI (March 21, 2011) — In a rare glimpse into Muammar Gaddafi’s secretive power base, Libyan officials took foreign reporters into his heavily fortified compound on Monday to show a building they said was destroyed in an allied missile attack.
A short walk from a brightly lit tent where Gaddafi receives his guests, the three-storey building stood in ruin, and a circular hole was visible on its gutted facade.
Reuters reporters in Tripoli had heard an explosion earlier in the night and seen smoke rising from the direction of the Gaddafi’s sprawling compound, which houses his private quarters as well as military barracks and other installations. But there was no smoke was rising from the building they were shown, although rubble and slabs of concrete were scattered around.
Officials said it had been hit by a missile late on Sunday and accused Western powers of trying to assassinate Gaddafi. “It was a barbaric bombing,” said government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, showing pieces of shrapnel that he said came from the missile. “This contradicts American and Western (statements) … that it is not their target to attack this place.”
Ibrahim said no one had been hurt in the attack. He declined to say whether Gaddafi was still inside the compound.
The United States says it does not have Gaddafi on its target list as Western nations intensify military action on Libya, where the veteran leader has been battling for a month to crush an uprising against his rule.
Nearby, crowds of Gaddafi loyalists, allowed into the compound as a human shield against possible air strikes, shouted anti-Western slogans including “Obama should be slaughtered.” Behind the compound’s thick security barriers, a soldier operating an anti-aircraft gun mounted on a pick-up truck was watching the sky intently.
Rounds of anti-aircraft gunfire boomed out late into the night over Tripoli. Flag-waving supporters jeered as tracer rounds lit up a clear, star-studded sky like fireworks. Troops and militiamen massed along the compound’s massive green wall, some dancing and showing v-for-victory signs. A crowd of people danced to patriotic songs blaring from loudspeakers outside a house ruined in a 1986 bombing of the compound by US fighter jets — a symbolic site of anti-Western defiance for Gaddafi supporters.
Some, including women holding babies, sat on mattresses scattered on the grass and prepared to camp out overnight. One of the children was holding a toy rifle with a flashing barrel. Many said they were ready to die for Gaddafi.
“I love Gaddafi. He is our father. I’ll die for him,” said Muatas, a 45-year-old engineer, as he waved the green flag of Gaddafi’s Libya. “I am not afraid, even if a rocket falls from the sky right now.”
(c) Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.
Explosions Rock Libyan Capital
(March 22, 2011) — Loud explosions have rocked the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for a third night as forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi attempt to stop any new attack from an international military coalition enforcing a no-fly zone over the country.
Gunfire and anti-aircraft fire lit up the sky late on Monday in and around the capital, where two large explosions could be heard about 10 minutes apart shortly after 9pm, said Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Tripoli.
She said two naval bases just outside the city had reportedly been hit in the strikes.
“We could see an area of the port on fire, substantially on fire, two big blazes. We saw fire engines racing along the coastal road,” she said.
“This evening seems to have been about targeting seaborne military assets of Gaddafi’s army, but also we are given to understand [there was] an attack on the airport at Sirte.”
Mussa Ibrahim, a government spokesman, told a news conference that the coalition bombardment had killed civilians in port areas and at Sirte airport and had hit the southern town of Sebha, a bastion of Gaddafi’s tribe.
“We expect at some point if the casualties are as significant as the Libyans are assuring us they are, there will be some opportunity to verify that for ourselves,” McNaught said.
Meanwhile, international coalition forces reportedly struck radar installations at two air defence bases belonging to Gaddafi’s forces in Benghazi in eastern Libya.
The developments came as the UN Security Council rejected a Libyan request for an emergency meeting to halt what it called “military aggression” by coalition forces three days after they began launching strikes aimed at disabling Libyan air defences.
The council decided instead to hold a briefing already planned for Thursday to give a briefing on the coalition air campaign to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
Despite the air strikes, forces loyal to Gaddafi continue to fight on and have reportedly made gains in the west.
Libyan government spokesman Ibrahim said Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city 211 km east of Tripoli, was “liberated three days ago” and that Gaddafi’s forces were hunting “terrorist elements.”
But a spokesman for opposition fighters in the city told the AFP news agency that the opposition remained in control despite an onslaught by Gaddafi loyalists, who he said opened fire with tanks and set snipers on roofs to gun down people in the streets.
“Casualties fell in their dozens,” after snipers and a tank “fired on demonstrators,” the spokesman said. A medic in Misurata said 40 people had died and at least 300 had been wounded.
The opposition spokesman said Gaddafi’s troops “have taken up position along the main road where they have deployed three tanks, as well as positioning snipers on rooftops.”
Western Town Bombarded
Gaddafi forces also reportedly bombarded the western town of Zintan, in the Nafusa Mountain range, for several hours before noon.
“Several houses have been destroyed and a mosque minaret was also brought down,” Abdulrahmane Daw told the Reuters news agency by phone from the town.
“New forces were sent today to besiege the city. There are now at least 40 tanks at the foothills of the mountains near Zintan.”
There was also fierce fighting further east in Ajdabiya. Opposition fighters were seen retreating in the face of an attack by government forces.
Al Jazeera‘s Tony Birtley, reporting from an area close to Ajdabiya, said there had been clashes outside the city.
“There’s been heavy fighting and heavy shelling going on … the rebels told me there have been heavy casualties and there are a number of corpses between here and the town [of Ajdabiya] that they have been unable to reach.”
He said the road between the eastern city of Benghazi and Ajdabiya was littered with the “burned-out wreckage of what was Gaddafi’s armour and tanks,” destroyed in air raids by coalition forces.
Government troops retreated 100km from Benghazi, the opposition stronghold, after fierce strafing by coalition aircraft destroyed much of their armour, AFP reported.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.