NATO carried out a number of missile strikes on targets in the Tripoli area yesterday that appeared to include Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s compound, witnesses said.
Qaddafi has not appeared in public since April 30 when a NATO air strike on a house in the capital killed his youngest son and three of his grandchildren.
Libyan officials said four children were wounded, two of them seriously, by flying glass caused by blasts from NATO strikes in the Tripoli area on Monday night.
Officials showed foreign journalists a hospital in the Libyan capital where some windows had been shattered, apparently because of the blast waves from a NATO strike that toppled a nearby telecommunications tower.
The journalists were also taken to a government building housing the high commission for children that had been completely destroyed. The old colonial building had been damaged before in what officials said was a NATO bombing on April 30.
“The direction of at least one blast suggests Qaddafi’s compound has been targeted,” one witness said.
No other information was immediately available, but the Tripoli blasts occurred against a backdrop of a stalemate in the insurgency to unseat Qaddafi and the resulting dilemma for Western powers over whether to offer covert aid to the rebels.
On Monday, rebels said NATO bombed government arms depots four times during the day about 30km southeast of Zintan, a town in the Western Mountains region near Tunisia where conflict is escalating.
“The site has some 72 underground hangars made of reinforced concrete. We don’t know how many were destroyed, but each time the aircraft struck we heard multiple explosions,” a rebel spokesman, who gave his name as Abdulrahman, said by telephone.
Qaddafi’s forces have conducted a ferocious assault on Misrata and hundreds have been killed in weeks of fighting.
Opposition newspaper Brnieq said Libyan rebels were leading an uprising in the suburbs of Tripoli after being supplied with light weapons by defecting security service officers.
The report on the newspaper’s Web site could not be independently verified. A Reuters reporter said he could not hear any gunfire and a government official denied the report.
After two months of conflict linked to this year’s uprisings in other Arab countries, rebels hold Benghazi and other towns in the east, while the government controls the capital and almost all of the west of the North African state.
The government says that most Libyans support Qaddafi, the rebels are armed criminals and al-Qaeda militants, and NATO’s intervention is an act of colonial aggression by Western powers intent on stealing the country’s oil.
The rebels face a government with superior firepower and resources, but they reported a financial breakthrough on Monday, selling oil worth US$100 million paid for through a Qatari bank in US dollars.
A rebel military commander said his fighters killed 57 troops and destroyed 17 military vehicles during a major battle west of the insurgent-held city of Ajdabiya on Monday.
The commander, whose statement could not be immediately verified, also told al-Jazeera television two rebels were killed in the fighting halfway between Ajdabiya and the oil port of Brega, where Qaddafi forces are entrenched.