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International coalition extends air strikes to south Libya


Tripoli : Libyan forces renewed attacks on opposition forces in the west of the country Thursday, as international coalition forces extended their aerial bombardment to the south of the country.

At dawn, coalition forces enforcing a no fly zone targeted the key southern city of Sabha, some 1,000 km south of the capital Tripoli, according to Libyan security forces.

The airport in the southern city of al-Jafra, some 800 km south of Tripoli, was also bombed overnight, Libyan media reported.

State media reported that an unspecified number of people were killed in coalition airstrikes on civilian areas the Tripoli.

Television images showed charred bodies in the city of Tajura, just east of Tripoli, which was also bombarded.

The French military, taking part in the UN Nations-authorised mission, Thursday denied reports that one of its warplanes was shot down over the city of Sirte, some 400 km north-east of Tripoli.

Libyan newspaper al-Watan had reported that Libyan forces had shot down a French fighter jet as it bombed the city.

Forces local to embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi meanwhile Thursday continued to attack the western city of Misurata, a day after coalition airstrikes had temporarily repelled them, broadcaster Al Jazeera reported.

With the Libyan air force destroyed, according the British military, Gaddafi has been using tanks and ground troops to attack opposition forces.

The tanks reportedly rolled back into Misurata overnight and shelled the area near a main hospital. Misurata is the last major city in the west of the country to remain in the hands of opposition forces.

Libyan tanks and troops were also gathering around the small city of Zintan, around 100 km south-west of Tripoli. Gaddafi’s forces had heavily shelled the opposition-held city earlier in the week.

UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday condemned Gaddafi’s use of force in Zintan and Misurata.

“All those who violate international humanitarian and human rights law will be held fully accountable,” Ban said.

The Libyan government claims the military is engaged only in defensive operations.

A spokesman for the opposition National Council, based in the eastern opposition stronghold of Benghazi in an interview Wednesday night spoke about the capacity of opposition forces.

Ali Tarhouni told broadcaster Al Jazeera that the opposition army was made up of around 1,000 fighters.

On Wednesday, the National Council chose former Libyan foreign envoy Mahmoud Jibril to lead a transitional government in the event of Gaddafi’s ouster.