Publish Date: Sunday,24 July, 2011, at 12:52 PM Doha Time
Rebel fighters with weapons and the Kingdom of Libya flag are seen at their positions outside the Bir-Ayyad gate near the city of Zintan in the western mountains, 120km southwest of Tripoli, yesterday
Nato-led warplanes struck the Libyan capital early yesterday, with the alliance saying they hit a military command centre and Muammar Gaddafi’s regime saying that civilians were targeted.
At least seven powerful explosions were heard at around 2.20am, as state television quoted a military official as saying Nato aircraft “are currently bombing civilian sites in the capital Tripoli.”
In Brussels, an Atlantic alliance official said “Nato can confirm that we targeted military objectives in Tripoli this morning,” and that the seven strikes were on a command and control node.
Two more explosions were heard in the same area at about midday.
The attack came after rebel forces said they had lost 16 fighters east of Tripoli and that they infiltrated the capital and attacked a regime command post where a son of the strongman was among officials targeted.
The rebels, who have been fighting to oust Gaddafi for more than five months, said the assault “seriously injured” a high-ranking member of Gaddafi’s security forces.
“Yesterday (Thursday) in Tripoli, there was an attack on an operations centre of top regime officials, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi,” National Transitional Council vice president Ali Essawy said after meeting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in Rome.
“One person was left seriously injured,” he said, identifying the person as a high-ranking security official.
Frattini said the “rocket attack against an operations centre” probably in a Tripoli hotel was aimed at “top officials... including Gaddafi’s son Saif, and the head of the secret service, Abdullah al-Senussi.”
On Thursday, unconfirmed rumours swirled that rebels in Tripoli had tried to assassinate senior regime members that day.
Libyan officials denied the attack occurred and denounced as “criminal and unjustified” what they said were Nato raids that killed six guards at a pipeline factory south of an oil plant in the eastern town of Brega.
“There was no attack,” government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters of the rebels’ claims that they had attacked a Tripoli command post.
Rebel forces, he said, were losing their battles in the east of the country and to the southwest and were trying “to boost their morale with lies and small victories.”
Elsewhere, the rebels said 16 of their men were killed in two days of fighting for Zliten, the last coastal city between insurgent-held Misrata and the capital.
“Sixteen of our fighters have fallen as martyrs and 126 more have been wounded in fighting with loyalist troops in Zliten,” said a rebel statement, with clashes said to be particularly heavy in the suburb of Souk Al Thulatha.
The insurgents have been trying for weeks to take Zliten, 200km from Tripoli and 40km west of Misrata.
The rebels say they have chased the bulk of Gaddafi’s forces from Brega in the east and are poised to advance towards the capital from Misrata and their other western enclave in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of Tripoli.
Rebels at Brega now face “negligible” resistance, military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani said yesterday.
“The only thing that is holding back the free Libya forces are the mines. Removal of these mines is a process that will take a few more days.
“As far as any resistance inside Brega, it is negligible.”
Meanwhile, in the remote desert 1,000km south of Tripoli, Toubou tribal fighters said they had lost control of the oasis town of Qatrun.