Libya rebels want `explanation,` not apology from NATO
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Last Updated: Saturday, April 09, 2011, 00:21
Benghazi: Libya's rebels are "not seeking an apology but an explanation" from NATO after a friendly fire incident that killed four of their members, a spokesman said on Friday.

"We are not questioning the intention of the NATO," Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, told a news agency.

"It appears that there has been a breakdown of communication, perhaps due to the visibility on the ground ... and that the positions of our tanks have not make clear to the NATO," he said.

On Thursday, a NATO air strike hit rebel tanks west of the town of Ajdabiya, killing two rebel fighters and two medics in the second friendly fire incident in a week.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rassmussen today expressed regret over the deaths caused in the "very unfortunate incident."

But the deputy commander of the alliance's mission over Libya, British Rear Admiral Russell Harding, refused to apologise for the incident, saying NATO was unaware the tanks belonged to the rebels.

Yet General Abdelfatah Yunis, the rebel commander, said in Benghazi on Thursday night that the insurgents had informed NATO that they were moving T55 and T72 heavy tanks from Benghazi to Brega.

A source close to key Western envoys in Benghazi who are in regular contact with the opposition Transitional National Council said "The problem is there are no official direct links" between the rebel military leadership and NATO.

"It would make sense to get a NATO situational awareness team on the ground" to gather information that would "cut down the chances of situations like yesterday (Thursday)," the source said.

The source added that communications equipment was due to arrive in Benghazi Friday to give the rebels a link to one of the European capitals, and messages to NATO could be passed through that channel as an interim measure.

However, the source stressed that equipment was just to aid situational awareness on the ground. "It won't be used for targeting. We're not looking at becoming the air arm of the opposition."


First Published: Saturday, April 09, 2011, 00:21

Tag: LibyaapologyNATO
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