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NATO set to continue bombing Libya during Ramadan

But the alliance said its campaign would stop if Gaddafi’s forces stopped targeting civilians.

Libyan during prayers in rebel-held Benghazi, Libya recently.
Libyan during prayers in rebel-held Benghazi, Libya recently.
Image: Hassan Ammar/AP/Press Association Images

NATO HAS CONFIRMED that it will continue to bomb forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in August.

A spokesperson for the military alliance confirmed that it will continue to target the embattled Libyan regime if it continues to attack civilians during the holy month which begins around 1 August and lasts between 29 and 30 days.

NATO Wing Commander Mike Bracken said that if Gaddafi forces continued to “shell and inflict harm” on the people of Libya, then the NATO bombardment would continue saying:

If…we believe that there is risk to the lives of the Libyan people, and men, women and children could be slaughtered or attacked, then I think it would be highly appropriate for the protection of those lives to continue.

A spokesperson for NATO added that it was hoped Gaddafi’s forces would cease such attacks not just during the holy month but immediately altogether.

The alliance is operating under a United Nations mandate that allows the use of air force raids to protect Libya’s civilians.

It could halt such attacks, but some analysts have warned that any let up in the bombing could quickly backfire and reduce gains made by opposition forces on the ground who are attempting to topple the 41-year rule of Gaddafi.

The FT reported last week that there was difficulty at NATO headquarters in getting a consensus about how to pursue the military campaign during the holy month.

During Ramadan, many Muslims refrain from eating and drinking. It is intended to teach Muslims about patience, humility, and spirituality.

Around 97 per cent of Libyans associate with Islam, many considering themselves Sunni Muslims.

- additional reporting from AP

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Hugh O'Connell

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