Air raids rat­tle Libya

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

BLASTS and anti-air­craft fire rat­tled Tripoli yes­ter­day as al­lied air raids against Muam­mar Gaddafi’s forces en­tered a sixth day amid re­ports Libya’s air force was mostly oblit­er­ated.

The anti-air­craft gun­fire be­gan around 3.30pm AEDT and there were en­su­ing ex­plo­sions, an AFP re­porter said. As an ar­mada of NATO war­ships pa­trolled Libya’s coast to en­force an arms em­bargo against Gaddafi, fresh ef­forts to hand the al­liance com­mand of the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions col­lapsed af­ter days of some­times ac­ri­mo­nious de­bate. A NATO diplo­mat said the 28-nation al­liance would try again to reach a de­ci­sion on whether NATO should take charge of the op­er­a­tion launched on Satur­day by Bri­tain, France and the United States.

But na­tions were al­ready hail­ing the suc­cess of the air strikes, with Bri­tish Air Vice Mar­shal Greg Bag­well say­ing Libya’s air force has been al­most to­tally oblit­er­ated and ‘‘ no longer ex­ists as a fight­ing force’’. US of­fi­cials are also openly spec­u­lat­ing whether the con­tin­ued pres­sure will force Gaddafi out of power. Wit­nesses also re­ported a huge blast on Wed­nes­day night at a mil­i­tary base in the Ta­jura res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood about 32 kilo­me­tres east of the cap­i­tal, while anti-air­craft fire was heard as war­planes thun­dered over Tripoli.

The of­fi­cial JANA news agency said coali­tion raids on Ta­jura killed ‘‘ a large num­ber’’ of civil­ians. Ta­jura was struck three times, the agency said, adding the third raid ‘‘ tar­geted res­cuers who were try­ing to re­move the dead and wounded from the rub­ble and the de­struc­tion caused by t he first two raids’’. The claims could not be in­de­pen­dently con­firmed.

Ta­jura is home to the most im­por­tant Libyan mil­i­tary bases and was struck by al­lied forces on the first day of op­er­a­tions on Satur­day, launched against Libya to im­pose a UN no-fly zone. Al­though the endgame in Libya re­mains un­clear, US De­fence Sec­re­tary Robert Gates said mount­ing pres­sure on Gaddafi’s regime could en­cour­age his as­so­ciates or even mem­bers of his fam­ily to turn on him.

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