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Archive for Monday, May 2, 2011

Western, U.N. offices in Libya attacked after NATO strike

May 2, 2011

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— Angry mobs attacked Western embassies and a U.N. office in Tripoli on Sunday after NATO bombed Moammar Gadhafi’s family compound in an attack officials said killed the leader’s second youngest son and three grandchildren, ages 6 months to 2 years.

Russia said the Western alliance exceeded its U.N. mandate of protecting Libyan civilians with the strike.

The vandalized embassies were empty and nobody was reported injured, but the attacks heightened tensions between the Libyan regime and Western powers, prompting the United Nations to pull its international staff out of the capital.

The bombing did not slow the attacks by Gadhafi’s forces on rebel strongholds in the western part of Libya that has remained largely under the control of the regime. The rebel port of Misrata, which has been besieged by Gadhafi’s troops for two months, came under heavy shelling Sunday, and at least 12 people were killed, a medic said.

Gadhafi has repeatedly called for a cease-fire, most recently on Saturday, but has not halted his assault on Misrata, a city of 300,000 where hundreds have been killed since the rebellion against Libya’s ruler erupted in mid-February.

The rebels, who control most of eastern Libya, have been unable to gain an advantage on the battlefield despite weeks of NATO airstrikes. Alliance officials and allied leaders emphatically denied they were hunting Gadhafi to break the stalemate between the better trained government forces and the lightly armed rebels.

Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, who commands NATO’s operation in Libya, said that “we do not target individuals.” However, the leaders of the U.S., Britain and France have said Gadhafi must go, prompting warnings by U.N. Security Council members Russia, China and Brazil against NATO attempts to change the regime.

In some of its strongest language, the Russian Foreign Ministry on Sunday accused NATO of a “disproportionate use of force” and cast doubt on NATO’s assertion that it is not targeting Gadhafi or members of his family. Russia called for an immediate cease-fire.

NATO warplanes have shifted their focus in the past two weeks from support for rebels on the front lines to attacking the regime’s communications centers. Saturday’s strike reduced most of the Gadhafi family compound, which takes up an entire block in the residential Garghour neighborhood, to rubble.

Officials said it killed 29-year-old Seif al-Arab Gadhafi, who had survived a 1986 U.S. airstrike on his father’s Bab al-Aziziya residential compound.

Also killed were 2-year-old Carthage, the daughter of Gadhafi’s son Hannibal; six-month-old Mastura, daughter of Gadhafi’s daughter Aisha; and 15-month-old Seif Mohammed, son of Gadhafi’s son Mohammed.

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