NATO Admits to Killings; 24 Civilians, Including 5 Children, Die in Tripoli Attacks

June 20th, 2011 - by admin

Jason Ditz / & David D. Kirkpatrick / The New York Times & BBC – 2011-06-20 11:13:04

NATO Admits Killing Civilians in Tripoli Attack

NATO Admits Killing Civilians in Tripoli Attack
Claims ‘Weapons System Failure’ in Attack Which Killed Toddlers

Jason Ditz /

TRIPOLI (June 19, 2011) — NATO has admitted a missile strike hit a civilian home in the Libyan capital of Tripoli today, killing a number of civilians including at least two toddlers. Though far from the first strike to kill civilians in the Libyan War, it is the first that NATO officials have admitted to.

NATO said the attack was targeting a missile site but instead hit a house full of civilians, saying they “regret the loss of innocent civilian lives” but that NATO has gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties in the war.

The East Libyan rebels were quick to shrug off the attack, however, saying that they “hold the Gadhafi regime responsible” for the deaths even though it was an errant NATO strike that actually killed the people.

US and French forces began attacking Libya on March 19, ostensibly based on a UN resolution calling for them to “protect civilians” with a no fly zone. Though officials have argued this extended to allowing the continuing air war, it will be difficult to defend the growing number of civilian killings by the NATO forces themselves.

NATO Admits Missile Hit a Civilian Home in Tripoli
David D. Kirkpatrick / The New York Times

TRIPOLI, Libya (June 19, 2011) — NATO acknowledged Sunday that an errant missile had destroyed a civilian home in the Libyan capital in the early morning, saying it may have killed civilians. It was the alliance’s first such admission in the three-month-long campaign of airstrikes against the military forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Reporters taken to the site and a nearby hospital saw at least five bodies, including those of a baby and a child. Libyan officials said at least four more civilians were killed.

The episode was NATO’s second admission of a mistaken strike in two days. On Saturday, it acknowledged inadvertently hitting a rebel convoy of tanks and military vehicles moving around the front near the eastern oil port of Brega. That strike was at least NATO’s third to accidentally hit rebels.

NATO officials have been talking openly of strains in the Libyan operation. In Washington, the mistaken strikes could bolster Congressional criticisms that the operation is too unfocused or too dependent on ill-equipped European allies.

In a statement, NATO said that a bomb intended for a “military missile site” had missed and instead “may have caused a number of civilian casualties.”

“NATO regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives,” Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, the commander of the Libyan mission, said in the statement, blaming a possible “weapons system failure.”

NATO said it had conducted 11,500 sorties “with tremendous care to minimize civilian casualties.” The Qaddafi government has often claimed that the strikes have killed hundreds of civilians. But until Sunday’s bombing, the Qaddafi government’s attempts to show journalists proof of civilian casualties have been contradicted by witnesses or lacking in evidence or specific details.

In a statement in response to the attack, the Libyan foreign minister, Abdulati al-Obeidi, called “for all Muslims to initiate a global jihad against the oppressive criminal West.” The secular Libyan government offered no explanation for its uncharacteristic use of Islamist language.

Neighbors who witnessed Sunday’s attack said it took place at about 1:15 a.m., at the same time that foreign journalists lodged at the Rixos Hotel in the capital heard a large blast rattle windows. A few moments later, an agitated Qaddafi spokesman began urgently summoning the reporters for a bus ride to the bombing site, saying that the bodies of civilians were still in the rubble.

When the journalists arrived, a body was sitting in an open ambulance. Another was carried out as emergency workers and neighborhood men pulled away the wreckage of a large cinderblock home. A short while later, reporters were taken to the Tripoli hospital and shown the bodies of a third adult and a baby, laid alongside the first two. A small child arrived on a stretcher, dead either on arrival or soon after. All the bodies appeared caked in dust from the rubble.

A Qaddafi spokesman said the destroyed home had housed 15 members of an extended family named al-Ghrari.

The home sat in a working-class neighborhood in the Souq al-Juma area, which is known as a hotbed of opposition to the Qaddafi government. As the journalists visited in early Sunday, and during another call later, a few neighbors tried without evidence to argue that the Qaddafi government had set off the blast or planted the bodies. But others who said that they opposed Colonel Qaddafi confirmed an airstrike.

There were no indications of any military facility in the area. Children’s shoes, diapers, a woman’s dress and kitchen tools lay amid the wreckage early Sunday. The blast knocked the top off the structure, leaving a concrete staircase reaching into the air. Several carports on the block collapsed, crushing the vehicles within. A neighbor a block away invited reporters into his home to show shattered glass from windows and doors, and said his wife had been taken to the hospital with wounds from the shards.

“Why did they bomb a civilian house?” asked Abdul Rouf, 26, another neighbor, who said he had run to his roof when he heard jets overhead and watched a missile hit the house.

Khalid Kaim, a deputy foreign minister, arrived at the scene not long after the blast and told journalists it gave the lie to NATO’s stated mission of protecting civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s wrath for challenging his rule. “We have seen who is attacking civilians,” he said. “They are targeting houses and flats. Tomorrow they will target schools and hospitals.”

Perhaps wary of recent attacks by small groups of rebels against Qaddafi forces here, one of the government minders taking the journalists to the bombed house and the hospital in the middle of the night brought along his assault rifle.

Libya: NATO ‘Killed 15 Civilians’ in Sorman Air Strike

TRIPOLI (June 20, 2011) — Libyan officials say 15 civilians — including three children — were killed in a NATO attack on a building west of the capital, Tripoli. A BBC correspondent taken by the Libyan government to see a compound in the suburb of Sorman says the building has been pulverised.

NATO said it conducted operations around Sorman earlier on Monday. On Sunday, NATO said a weapons failure may have led to civilian casualties in an earlier air strike on Tripoli.

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was taken to see the remains of the country estate of Khweildy al-Hamidy, a member of the Libyan Revolutionary Command Centre, the inner circle of government.

Libyan officials told him that eight rockets slammed into the place at about 0400 or 0500 on Monday morning (0200 or 0300 GMT). There are shell holes and craters in the houses in the compound, our correspondent says, after what was a very comprehensive attack.

Confirming NATO operations in the Sorman area, a spokesman said: “We know what targets we hit.” However, the alliance is so far making no comment on reports of a residential compound being hit in the area.

Funding for Rebels
Mr Hamidy has been part of Col Muammar Gaddafi’s inner circle since the 1969 coup that brought the Libyan leader to power. Officials say Mr Hamidy himself escaped the air strike unharmed.

On Sunday, NATO admitted “a weapons systems failure” may have led to civilian casualties in an air strike that morning on Tripoli. The alliance said the intended target was a missile site, but “it appears that one weapon” did not hit it. The Libyan government earlier said NATO had bombed a residential area, killing nine civilians, including two babies.

Meanwhile, rebel leaders said their administration had run out of money as donors’ pledges had not materialized. They told a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi that they were still waiting for funds that should have been deposited by last week.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg have agreed to tighten sanctions on Col Gaddafi’s government. The assets of six port authorities will be frozen, the EU said in a statement. Humanitarian shipments will be exempt.

“The EU acknowledges the urgent financial needs of the TNC in order to serve the Libyan people,” the statement said.

And the EU said that the “mobilisation of international resources, including, where possible, through the use of Libyan frozen funds… is key to support an inclusive transition process.”

NATO’s mission — to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians using “all necessary measures” short of a ground invasion — began in March in response to Col Muammar Gaddafi’s violent response to a popular uprising.

The intervention was mandated by the UN, and led by France, Britain and the US until the end of March, when Nato took over.

Having initially been given 90 days — which would have run out on 27 June — the mission has been extended for a further 90 days.

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