Allied air strikes continue against Libya targets


Paris/Cairo/Tripoli : Coalition air strikes continued against Libya Monday, with a senior British official saying Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was not the target.

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A missile reportedly hit the Libyan leader’s residential compound in Tripoli, with opposition sources reporting explosions followed by smoke rising from the area of Bab al-Aziziya, a Gaddafi stronghold.

Libyan government officials said there were no casualties from the compound bombing. Gaddafi’s whereabouts were not known.

But one of Gaddafi’s sons, Khamis, was reportedly injured in an attack on Bab al-Aziziya compound, with some opposition groups claiming he died of burn wounds sustained during the attack.

Libyan opposition forces said Gaddafi’s forces killed people in the third largest city of Misurata Monday, despite nearly three days of aimed at curbing his ability to attack civilians.

Broadcaster Al Arabiya said at least nine people had been killed in Misurata, located to the east of the capital.

The Libyan Youth Movement said the death toll in Misurata from Monday’s attacks was in “double digits”, but did not give a precise figure.

Britain’s chief of defence staff, David Richards, said Gaddafi was “absolutely not” a target of British forces and that the mission was exclusively to protect civilians.

Meanwhile, the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition (NCLO) said Gaddafi’s forces shelled the city of Alzentan, about 160 km southwest of Tripoli. The government loyalists used tanks and missiles, destroying residential buildings, said the NCLO.

Additionally, four broadcast journalists, two photographers and a wire service reporter are missing in the Libyan conflict. This after four US journalists working for The New York Times were freed Monday after being held for nearly a week.

Earlier this month, an Al Jazeera cameraman was shot just outside the rebel-held city of Benghazi in what the opposition said was an attack by Gaddafi loyalists.

Gaddafi had earlier called on his supporters to launch a peaceful march on Benghazi, the largest city controlled by rebels seeking to unseat him, state media Jana reported early Monday.

There was no confirmation that the so-called “green march” took place. Phone lines to Benghazi were not working Monday.

Despite continued reports of civilian deaths in northern Libya, a French government spokesman said Monday that the French strikes, which are part of Operation Odyssey Dawn to implement UN resolution 1973 for a no-fly zone, had “stopped Gaddafi in the development of massacring civilians.”

French fighter jets and US and British ships began bombing Libyan military targets Saturday evening.

Spain, Belgium and Canada have contributed fighter jets and other weapons to the Libyan mission, while Italian and Danish fighter jets have also been participating in enforcing the no-fly zone.

The Qatari air force will be participating in the enforcement of the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya, Qatari media reported Monday.

This would make the Gulf state the first Arab country to actively participate in the mission.

But Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described the operation on Libya as a “crusade”, although he was later censured for the remark by President Dmitry Medvedev.

“This absolutely reminds me of a medieval call to crusade, where somebody goads others to march into a certain area and free it,” said Putin.

The degree of nonchalance at the international level about launching hostilities upon a sovereign state is unsettling, said Putin.