NATO warplanes hammered Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's compound with their heaviest air strikes yet on Tuesday after the United States said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi would ``inevitably'' be forced from power.
TRIPOLI – The shockwave from the strikes was so powerful that plaster fell from the ceilings in a hotel where foreign reporters were staying, about 2 km (1.2 miles) from Gaddafi’s compound.
A NATO official said the strikes hit a military facility that had been used to attack civilians. A Libyan government spokesman said three people had been killed and 150 wounded, and that the casualties were local residents.
It is definitely, in terms of one target, the largest and most concentrated attack we have done to date,” said the NATO official in Brussels.
”This complex is where members of the Gaddafi regime, not only military, but hit squads, were based out of in the early days of the violent suppression of the popular uprising, and it has been active ever since,the official said.
Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said the strikes had targeted a compound of the Popular Guards, a tribally based military detachment.
But he said the compound had been emptied of people and ”useful material in anticipation of an attack. ”This is another night of bombing and killing by NATO, Ibrahim told reporters.
Led by France, Britain and the United States, NATO warplanes have been bombing Libya since the United Nations authorised ”all necessary measures to protect civilians from Gaddafi‘s forces in the country’s civil war.
Critics argue that NATO has overstepped its mandate and is trying directly to engineer Gaddafi’s fall. Rebels, however, have complained Western forces are not doing enough to break Gaddafi’s army.
”We have degraded his war machine and prevented a humanitarian catastrophe, U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in Britain’s Times newspaper. ”And we will continue to enforce the U.N. resolutions with our allies until they are completely complied with.
U.N. Security Council 1973, passed on March 17, established a no-fly zone and called for a ceasefire, an end to attacks on civilians, respect for human rights and efforts to meet Libyans’ aspirations. Gaddafi denies his forces target civilians and describes the rebels as criminals and religious extremists.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a London news conference on Monday: ”We do believe that time is working against Gaddafi, that he cannot re-establish control over the country.
She said the opposition had organised a legitimate and credible interim council that was committed to democracy.
”Their military forces are improving and when Gaddafi inevitably leaves, a new Libya stands ready to move forward, she said. ”We have a lot of confidence in what our joint efforts are producing.
The United States bolstered the credentials of the rebel National Transitional Council as a potential government-in-waiting on Tuesday when a senior U.S. envoy invited it to set up a representative office in Washington.
”A formal invitation for the council to establish a representative in Washington D.C. is a milestone in our relationship and I am pleased that they accepted our offer, said U.S. Assistant Secretary for the Near East Jeffrey Feltman, who was meeting rebel leaders in rebel-held Benghazi.
Unlike France, Italy and Qatar, the United States has not established formal diplomatic ties with the rebels.