NATO forces busy bombing Tripoli as Libyan rebels seek legitimacy, aid to survive
JNN 13 May 2011 TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI– NATO warplanes continued to rain bombs on the Libyan capital of Tripoli Thursday, causing further civilian casualties and damage, as Libyan opposition forces are seeking more international recognition and aid.
At least three civilians were killed, including two local journalists and a local official, during a NATO raid early Thursday that targeted Tripoli, according to Libyan government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim.
He said the two journalists and the official were making a documentary about the hundreds of Libyan civilians sleeping in Gaddafi’s compound to show support for their leader when missiles landed in the area and killed them.
The bombing came hours after Gaddafi’s first TV appearance Wednesday almost two weeks after one of his sons was killed in NATO air raids on April 30, showing he was meeting with several tribal leaders. It was seen as the Libyan government’s attempt to dispel rumors that Gaddafi was already dead.
Ibrahim said the air strikes were aimed at pressuring Gaddafi to end his 42-year rule.
“All they want is to break our morale, to cause death and destruction everywhere,” Ibrahim said. “People are being killed, every single day, every single night.”
Libya’s state television also said Thursday that a NATO air strike caused damage to the embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Tripoli.
Officials at the embassy confirmed to Xinhua that a number of cars were destroyed and windows of a building were also shattered during the air strike late Tuesday.
But NATO has denied it attacked the DPRK’s embassy, saying their target was a military compound in the capital.
“Last night, NATO attacked a large command and control bunker complex in downtown Tripoli that was used to coordinate attacks against civilian populations and successfully hit the targets we were aiming at,” said an alliance official.
He said the DPRK embassy was located some 500 meters from the target NATO struck. However, he admitted collateral damage would always exist.
Libyan opposition forces said Thursday that anti-Gaddafi demonstrations were staged in many neighborhoods in Tripoli. Protesters burned a police station in a suburb and set up night patrols and checkpoints in other neighborhoods.
While NATO has been persistently dropping bombs, Libya opposition forces are busy trying to gain more international recognition for its National Transitional Council (NTC).
The rebels, running short of ammunition and money, are also fighting the pro-Gaddafi forces some 40 km west of Misrata.
Opposition spokesman Abdel Hafed Ghoga told Xinhua in Benghazi that the lack of weapons was their major obstacle to achieving breakthroughs on the front lines.
Currently, France, Italy, Qatar, Gambia and Maldives have recognized the NTChave recognized the NTC while the European Union (EU), the United States, and Spain have sent envoys to Benghazi to assist the NTC.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said during a meeting with visiting NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil Thursday that Britain would invite the rebels to set up an office in London.
He said Britain was completing plans to transfer several millions of pounds worth of equipment to Benghazi police and to help improve the council’s public broadcasting capacities.
The NTC is also sending its chief diplomat Mahmud Jibril to the United States to court U.S. recognition. He is expected to meet at the White House on Friday with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.
In an interview with CNN television, he said the NTC wants Washington to recognize the council as “the sole legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people.”
Jibril also appealed to Washington for help as they were “running almost out of money.”
Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the air campaign in Libya had already cost the U.S. roughly 750 million U.S. dollars, which surpassed the Pentagon’s initial estimate of 604 million.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a Moscow newspaper Thursday that the coalition’s operation against the Libyan government has gone beyond what UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 could mandate.
The NATO-led campaign “openly employs double standards,” stopping humanitarian cargo ships and taking a one-sided stand in the conflict, he said.
Lavrov urged an immediate ceasefire in Libya and the start of mediatory efforts by the African Union and the United Nations. He also warned that the prolonged conflict would bring “catastrophic consequences, including break-up of Libya.”