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Libya: Nato targets Tripoli with heaviest strikes yet

Nato forces have carried out an intense bombardment of central Tripoli, hitting a reserves’ base and killing three people, according to Libyan officials.


Nato is continuing to use air power to try to shake the Gaddafi regime

A string of blasts shook windows across central Tripoli from 1am and sent a plume of black smoke high into the sky.

A series of secondary explosions suggested fuel tanks had exploded, which would chime with claims by Nato that its jets had struck a storage facility for military vehicles.

Moussa Ibrahim, the Libyan government spokesman, said that the base was used for a reserve force of the People’s Army, but had been evacuated because of the likelihood it would be a target.

He claimed the three dead, young men aged 22, 25, and 27, and most of the 150 injured were civilians from the surrounding civilian neighbourhood.

Nato is continuing to use air power to try to shake the Gaddafi regime, after its initial objective of preventing its further advance into rebel-held territory in the east of the country, the port city of Misurata and an enclave in western Libya succeeded. On Monday, it revealed it was intending to send British Apache and French Tiger attack helicopters to take the fight to Libyan ground forces from closer range.

The bombing overnight sent 15 sharp blasts across the city centre from the area around the Bab al-Aziziya government compound. They were followed by bursts of anti-aircraft fire, and then a drive-past of cars honking horns to show their support for the regime.

Officials took western journalists to Tripoli Central Hospital, where a dozen of the injured – all young men – were being treated for minor injuries. They were also shown the bodies of the three dead men, all horribly disfigured by blast wounds that left gaping holes to their heads and covered in dust.

A nurse, Ahmed Hussein, said the three had been brought in by ambulance half an hour previously.

“The air attacks shook the hospital itself,” he said. “We received 150 injured, from both civilian and military locations.”

Fathallah Salem, 45, said he had brought his elderly mother in suffering from shock. “There are people here who live in slums – imagine how terrified they are,” he said. “Imagine what it’s like for our mothers and children. We really thought it was the Day of Judgement.

“To be honest we had our problems with the regime but today we have all become Muammar Gaddafi, we have taken him into our hearts.”

A Nato statement said the base had been supplying vehicles involved in “conducting attacks on civilians”.

The helicopter deployment was approved by the National Security Council, which is attempting to bring new pressure on the regime and prevent the conflict lapsing into stalemate. “We are constantly looking for ways to intensify the diplomatic and military pressure on the Libyan regime,” said a spokesman for the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Its principal aim will be to support rebels trying to expand their sphere of operation around the city of Misurata. Mr Cameron and President Barack Obama published a joint article in The Times today in which they said that they had had a “responsibility” to protect the Libyan people from Colonel Gaddafi’s regime.

“We have degraded his war machine and prevented a humanitarian catastrophe,” the article said. “And we will continue to enforce the UN resolutions with our allies until they are completely complied with.”

Filed in: World News

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