Libya says three children among 15 dead in new NATO raid
By Rizwan Khatik - Tue Jun 21, 11:09 am
SURMAN, Libya: Libya’s government said a NATO airstrike early Monday on a large family compound belonging to a close associate of Muammar Qaddafi has killed at least 15 people, including three children, west of Tripoli.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said alliance bombs struck the compound belonging to Khoweildi Al-Hamidi outside the city of Surman, some 60 km west of Tripoli, around 4 a.m. local time Monday.
Ibrahim said Al-Hamidi, a former military officer who took part in the 1969 coup that brought Qaddafi to power, escaped unharmed but that three children were among those killed, two of them Al-Hamidi’s grandchildren.
“They (NATO) are targeting civilians … the logic is intimidation,” Ibrahim said. “They want Libyans to give up the fight … they want to break our spirit.” Foreign journalists based in the Libyan capital were taken by government officials to the walled compound, where the main two-story buildings had been blasted to rubble. A pair of massive craters could be seen in the dusty ground, and rescue service workers with sniffer dogs were searching the rubble in search of people. The smell of smoke was still thick in the air.
Journalists were later taken to a hospital in the nearby city of Sabratha, where medical workers showed them the bodies of at least 10 people, including those of two children, said to be killed in the strike. Some of the bodies were charred beyond recognition, while others had been half blown apart.
Meanwhile, the Italian foreign minister said on Monday that NATO risks losing the propaganda war to Qaddafi because of actions which have killed civilians.
NATO admitted on Sunday it destroyed a house in Tripoli in which Libyan officials said nine civilians were killed — an incident that sows new doubts inside the alliance about its mission in Libya.
“NATO is endangering its credibility; we cannot risk killing civilians,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters ahead of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg due to discuss ways to aid fighters opposed to Qaddafi.
Frattini expressed concern that NATO was losing the propaganda war to Qaddafi and that Western media reports did not emphasize enough the good work done by the alliance every day in protecting civilians in Libya.
“We cannot continue our shortcomings in the way we communicate with the public, which doesn’t keep up with the daily propaganda of Qaddafi,” he said.
Frattini said NATO had set what he called a “deadline” to conclude the bombing campaign by September, when a second alliance operations cycle will end, but should be looking for a solution to the crisis in Libya before that.
Other NATO states have said the operation, which the alliance took over on March 31, will continue as long as necessary.
Sunday’s statement was the first time NATO has admitted killing civilians in a mission in which its UN mandate is to protect civilians. The incident took place with NATO already under strain from a campaign that is taking more time and resources than some allies had expected.
Italy is one of only eight NATO states taking part in airstrikes on Libya and was initially reluctant to join them given its colonial past in the country and the mission has been questioned in the governing coalition.
Qaddafi has called the NATO campaign an act of colonial aggression designed to steal oil.
NATO said a military missile site was the intended target of the airstrikes but that it appeared one of the weapons did not strike that target, possibly due to a malfunction.
Reporters taken to the residential area in Tripoli’s Souq Al-Juma district by Libyan officials on Sunday saw several bodies being pulled out of the rubble of a destroyed building. In a hospital, they were shown the bodies of two children and three adults who, officials said, were among those killed.