Sun, May 29, 2011 - Page 1 News List

NATO raids target Libyan capital as Russia backs West

AFP, TRIPOLI

NATO carried out fresh bombing raids at the heart of Tripoli’s regime yesterday, the military alliance said after G8 world powers intensified the pressure on Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi to go.

The alliance launched a first salvo at 1am yesterday morning followed by another strike nine hours later in Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound, which NATO aircraft have targeted for four successive days.

The strikes came after US President Barack Obama had said the US and France were committed to finishing the job in Libya and as Russia finally joined explicit calls for Qaddafi to go.

“We are joined in our resolve to finish the job,” Obama said after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the G8 summit of industrialized democracies in France.

However, Obama said that the “UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Qaddafi remains in Libya directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people.”

His comments were followed only hours later by fresh air strikes on a command and control center in Bab al-Aziziya, a NATO mission spokesman said.

“Three bombs were dropped on the Tripoli target,” he said on condition of anonymity.

A reporter said the second strike, which caused a powerful explosion, hit an army barracks at around 10am.

The series of blasts have caused the collapse of sections of imposing walls around the barracks, which is full of warehouses, although the Libyan authorities say they have been emptied.

However, the NATO spokesman said the target of two or three bombs at the time was a vehicle storage area in Bab al-Aziziya.

Earlier, the official news agency Jana said civilian sites in the al-Qariet region, south of the capital, had been targeted in air raids.

In a statement, NATO said its warplanes struck a command and control facility in Tripoli on Friday and hit ammunition storage facilities in Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, in Mizdah south of the capital and the town of Hun in central Libya.

Elsewhere, rebels fought Qaddafi loyalists near an oil facility in the eastern crossroads town of Ajdabiya, leaving two insurgents dead, rebel commander Jamal Mansur said.

Meanwhile, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim said Tripoli had no confirmation of a change in Moscow’s position after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev toughened Russia’s stance at the G8 meeting by saying: “The world community does not see him as the Libyan leader.”

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