Civilians killed as Tripoli suburb targeted in NATO air raid
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Last Updated: Thursday, April 21, 2011, 08:35
  
Misrata: Seven civilians were killed and 18 wounded in a NATO air raid that targeted the southwestern Tripoli suburb of Khellat Al-Ferjan, official Jana news agency reported.

An earlier report by the state Allibiya television said the Khellat Al-Ferjan area where three explosions could be heard was the "target of barbarian crusaders' raids that left martyrs and wounded among the residents and destroyed their homes".

NATO warplanes carried out air raids earlier Wednesday at Bir Al-Ghanam, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) southwest of the Libyan capital, that left four people dead among the civilian population, according to Jana.

France and Italy joined Britain on Wednesday in sending military advisers to insurgent-held eastern Libya, as Tripoli warned that a foreign troop deployment would only prolong the conflict.

In the besieged city of Misrata, Tim Hetherington, an Oscar-nominated British film director and war photographer, was killed and three colleagues were wounded by mortar fire, the local hospital said.

Vanity Fair, for which Hetherington was working, confirmed the death of the 41-year-old from Liverpool, the second journalist killed covering Libya's two-month-old conflict.

A colleague seriously wounded in the same incident was named as US national Chris Hondros of photo agency Getty.

In Geneva, meanwhile, the UN human rights chief slammed the Libyan regime for the alleged use of cluster bombs in the city of Misrata, saying such attacks on densely populated urban areas could be international crimes.

Rebel leaders in Misrata desperately pleaded for foreign soldiers to help them battle Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, who have been pounding the city for more than six weeks in fighting a doctor said had claimed at least 1,000 lives.

But the three European nations committing handfuls of troops to east Libya stressed they were being sent merely to advise the rebels on technical, logistical and organisational matters and not to fight.

In Paris, France's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said: "France has placed a small number of liaison officers alongside our special envoy to Benghazi who are carrying out a liaison mission with the TNC.”

"The precise objective is to give the TNC essentially technical, logistical and organisational advice to reinforce the protection of civilians and to improve the distribution of humanitarian and medical aid," she said.

She was referring to the rebel Transitional National Council, which so far has publicly rejected any suggestion of foreign troops on the ground as NATO warplanes enforce a US-mandated no-fly zone designed to protect civilians.

Government spokesman Francois Baroin said "fewer than 10" officers are involved, and repeated France's position: "We are not envisaging troops on the ground, in any shape or form."

The announcement came the day after France's main ally in the drive to help rebels, Britain, said it would send advisers to help organise the stalled rebellion.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said London would send 12 military advisers to eastern Libya, but that they would not be involved in training or arming the rebels, or help in planning operations.

Italy's Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, meanwhile, said his country would also send 10 Army advisers to aid the rebels. "There is a clear understanding that the rebels have to be trained," La Russa said.

TNC head Mustafa Abdel Jalil, after meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, said Libyan rebels expect "major strikes by the coalition" against forces loyal to Gaddafi.

"We are sure that Gaddafi will be overthrown sooner or later, but we want it to be as soon as possible," he told French television.

Asked whether the conflict would be won by force or negotiation, Jalil told France 24: "We expect there to be major strikes by the coalition, then Libyans can reach a solution."

In Washington, meanwhile, President Barack Obama's spokesman said he supports the decision by allies to send military advisers to aid Libyan rebels but has no plans to put US "boots on the ground”.

A senior American diplomat, meanwhile, told lawmakers in a letter on Wednesday, that Obama plans to provide the rebels with up to USD 25 million in urgent, non-lethal aid.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati Laabidi told the BCC that the presence of any foreign troops in Libya would prolong the conflict.

"We think any military presence is a step backwards, and we are sure that if this bombing stopped and there is a real ceasefire we could have a dialogue among all Libyans about what they want -- democracy, political reform, constitution, election," Laabidi said.

"This could not be done with what is going on now," he said, adding that if the bombing stopped, after six months there could be a UN supervised election that would cover "whatever issue is raised by Libyans”.

Seif al-Islam, a son of Gaddafi, said he was confident the rebellion would fail.

"I am very optimistic and we will win ... The situation changes every day in our favour," the leader's son said on his country's Allibya state television before a group of about 50 people.

Seif vowed the regime would "not seek revenge" against the rebels fighting to oust Gaddafi.

But he warned that "the use of weapons and force will only be met by force and those who cross the four red lines, set in 2007 (Gaddafi, Islam, state security and national unity) will have to bear the consequences".

The bombardment of Misrata continued on Wednesday, with loud explosions heard mid-afternoon following a night of heavy fighting.

Two French Mirage fighter jets believed to be involved in operations against Libya were forced to make emergency landings in Malta on Wednesday after running out of fuel, civil aviation sources said.

On Tuesday evening, Nuri Abdullah Abdullati, a senior member of Misrata's governing council, pleaded for help to break the nearly two-month-old Gaddafi siege of the Mediterranean port city.

Previously, he said, "we did not accept any foreign soldiers in our country, but now, as we face these crimes of Gaddafi, we are asking on the basis of humanitarian and Islamic principles for someone to come and stop the killing."

"Before we were asking for no foreign interference, but that was before Gaddafi used Grad rockets and planes. Now it's a life or death situation."

In Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the reported repeated use of cluster munitions and heavy weaponry by government forces in the siege of Misrata.

"Using imprecise weaponry such as cluster munitions, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and other forms of heavy weaponry, in crowded urban areas will inevitably lead to civilian casualties," Pillay said.

She warned regime forces that "their orders and actions will be subject to intense scrutiny”.

Bureau Report


First Published: Thursday, April 21, 2011, 08:35


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