NATO aircraft hit eight warships of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s forces overnight yesterday in the ports of Tripoli, Al Khums and Sirte, the alliance said in a statement.
“NATO and coalition air assets continued their precision airstrikes against pro-Qaddafi regime forces overnight with a coordinated strike against pro-Qaddafi forces in the ports of Tripoli, Al Khums and Sirte,” the statement said.
“Overnight, NATO aircraft hit pro-Qaddafi warships, striking eight vessels,” it added.
“All NATO’s targets are military in nature and are directly linked to the Qaddafi regime’s systematic attacks on the Libyan people,” said Rear-Admiral Russell Harding, Deputy Commander Operation Unified Protector.
“Given the escalating use of naval assets, NATO had no choice but to take decisive action to protect the civilian population of Libya and NATO forces at sea,” he added.
Fresh explosions were heard in the Libyan capital Tripoli early yesterday hours after NATO air strikes targeted the city’s port, with a ship still ablaze after the raid.
Reporters sent by the authorities to a bridge facing the port about 1km away were unable to determine whether the blazing ship was a military or civilian vessel.
The NATO statement said: “Over the past couple of weeks we have witnessed indiscriminate mining and the escalating use of force by pro-Qaddafi maritime forces.
“This has directly disrupted the safe flow of desperately needed humanitarian assistance and put NATO forces at risk,” it continued. “This development of pro-Qaddafi tactics has also demonstrated a clear intent to attack NATO forces. Last night, NATO took deliberate action in carefully planned and coordinated responses to demonstrate our resolve to protect the civilian population of Libya, using appropriate and proportionate force.”
Rear-Admiral Harding said: “All the vessels targeted last night were naval warships with no civilian utility.”