M A I N   N E W S

Attack on Libya intensifies
Gaddafi’s command centre flattened, one of his sons may have been killed

  • US, British, French, Italian planes, subs, warships in action
  • 64 killed in second wave of air strikes
  • Ceasefire by Libyan forces but Western powers not impressed
  • New Delhi regrets military strikes

Delhi regrets action

India on Monday regretted military strikes on Libya, calling upon all parties to abjure the use of force and resolve their differences through peaceful means in which the UN and regional organisations should effectively play their roles. “The air strikes will lead to harm to innocent civilians, foreign nationals and diplomatic missions and their personnel who are still in Libya…I think the need of the hour is cessation of armed conflict,” Foreign Minister SM Krishna said. — TNS

Tripoli/Cairo, March 21
The US-led coalition forces today intensified air and sea strikes on Libyan defence targets flattening a command centre of Muammar Gaddafi close to his residence in Tripoli, as the Arab League voiced concerns over the bombardment taking a toll on civilians.

The western powers denied that civilians had been killed in their operations which got underway after the UN Security Council (UNSC) gave its nod for imposing a ‘no-fly’ zone over Libya. A coalition official said Gaddafi’s “command and control capability” inside the Libyan leader’s compound at Bab el-Aziziya in south of capital Tripoli had been demolished. It was unclear where Gaddafi (68) was at the time of the strike on his air defences as part of a renewed allied assault on Libya involving British submarines and RAF Tornado jets.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the US expects to turn control of the Libya military mission over to a coalition probably headed either by the French and British or by NATO “in a matter of days”. The Arab League, which supported the UNSC move for the ‘no fly’ zone, criticised the heavy bombardments by the western forces, saying several civilians had been killed or wounded. “What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone,” the Arab League’s Secretary General Amr Mussa said. “What we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians,” Mussa said.

The three-storey administrative building which was flattened is about 50 metres from Gaddafi’s iconic tent where the Libyan strongman generally meets guests in Tripoli. It was hit by a missile, Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters who were taken to the site by bus.

“This was a barbaric bombing which could have hit hundreds of civilians gathered at the residence of Muammar Gaddafi about 400 metres 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 and other installations. A Libyan official displayed to reporters a piece of shrapnel, apparently from the missile, at the ruined building. BBC reported that anti-aircraft fire and several explosions were heard overnight in Tripoli. “I can confirm that British armed forces have participated in another coordinated strike against Libyan air defence systems,” senior Defence official Maj Gen John Lorimer said in London. Pentagon spokesman Vice-Admiral William Gortney at a news briefing in Washington said, “We are not going after Gaddafi. At this particular point I can guarantee he is not on the target list.” Gortney also said it had no evidence of civilian casualties in air strikes by coalition forces over Libya.

A series of explosions rocked Tripoli as the western forces made it clear that there will be no let-up in the strikes on Libyan defence systems.

A ceasefire announced by Gaddafi failed to impress the US and European nations which have asserted that the Libyan leader must step down from power. In Misrata, west of Benghazi, Gaddafi’s tanks moved in targeting rebel positions after a military base was hit by coalition forces. Rebels are leading a month-long uprising seeking an end to the 41-year regime of Gaddafi. A Libyan official claimed that 64 persons have been killed in the strikes by the coalition forces but there was no independent confirmation on this.

In contrast to US position, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox suggested that Gaddafi was a legitimate target, so long as steps were taken to avoid harm to civilians around him. Asked about Fox’s remarks, Gates said it would be “unwise” to have coalition forces try to kill Gaddafi in military strikes in Libya and that the allied operation should stick to the parameters as authorized by UN Security Council.
“I think that it’s important that we operate within the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution,” he said. — PTI





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