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Libya claims NATO has killed more civilians

Libyan state media says a NATO airstrike has killed 15 people after hitting a restaurant and a bakery.

School students chant slogans against Muammar Gaddafi, during a demonstration, at the court square in the rebel-held capital Benghazi, Libya
School students chant slogans against Muammar Gaddafi, during a demonstration, at the court square in the rebel-held capital Benghazi, Libya
Image: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

LIBYAN AUTHORITIES HAVE accused NATO of killing 15 people in an airstrike that hit a restaurant and bakery in the east, though the alliance said there were no indications that civilians had died.

It was the latest outcry from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s government blaming NATO for killing civilians amid a four-month uprising that has sparked a civil war. NATO insists it does all it can to avoid such casualties.

Meanwhile, rebel representatives said their fighters were coordinating around the country for the “zero hour” when their forces would reach the capital of Tripoli.

The rebels said they have been working to cut fuel supplies from Tunisian borders in an attempt to paralyze Gaddafi’s forces. Rebels also are making homemade bombs and trying to ferry other weapons to their comrades in Tripoli, a spokesman for an underground guerrilla group there said.

State news agency

Libya’s state news agency quoted a military official in Gaddafi’ss forces as saying that NATO warplanes hit a number of civilian sites Saturday in the oil town of Brega, including a restaurant and a bakery.

The official said 15 civilians were killed and 20 wounded in the strike. The JANA news agency also claimed five civilians were killed Friday in Brega as well.

A NATO official said alliance warplanes had hit several targets in the vicinity of Brega, but dismissed claims that the attacks had resulted in civilian casualties.

“We have no indications of any civilian casualties in connection with these strikes,” said the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the record. “What we know is that the buildings we hit were occupied and used by pro-Gadhafi forces to direct attacks against civilians around Ajdabiya.”

NATO has acknowledged carrying out two raids near the strategic oil town. The alliance said on Friday it hit multiple military command sites near Brega, which has been a frequent flashpoint between rebels and Gadhafi’s forces.

The alliance said on Friday that government forces had moved into buildings in an abandoned area of Brega and started using them as military compounds to launch strikes on civilians, putting rebel-held cities such as Ajdabiya and Benghazi at risk.

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Reports of civilian casualties have provoked intense anger among many Libyans in the west of the country under Gaddafi’s control.

Images of dead civilians, including young children, described by the government as “martyrs” can be seen frequently at pro-government rallies and on state-controlled television.

NATO is investigating whether one of its airstrikes may have slammed into a civilian neighborhood in Tripoli on June 19, killing several civilians.

A day later, alliance warplanes struck a family compound belonging to a close Gaddafi aide, killing what the Libyan government says was 19 people, including at least three children. NATO called the site was a “command and control” center, and said it regrets any civilian deaths that resulted from the strike.

Meanwhile, at least two explosions could be heard in the capital of Tripoli today, though it was not immediately clear what the NATO airstrikes may have hit.

Read: NATO says ‘weapons system failure’ killed Libyan civilians>

- AP

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