Kadhafi says NATO killed 7, bombed food stocks

25th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Libya's regime accused NATO of killing at least seven people and destroying food stocks Monday in Zliten, east of Tripoli, after rebels repulsed a counter-attack by loyalist troops south of the capital.

The strike on the small clinic for communicable diseases occurred between 8:00 and 8:30 am (0600-0630 GMT), a local official told an AFP correspondent among a group of foreign journalists on a guided tour of the western town.

The journalists saw a completely destroyed building with a crescent sign at its entrance and ground scattered with gloves, oxygen bottles, pharmaceuticals and stretchers, but no victims.

Five ambulances were on standby as rescue teams scoured the rubble for other possible victims.

The reporters were also taken to another part of Zliten where they were shown three damaged food storage buildings and another still on fire, which the government minders also blamed on NATO attacks.

Strewn around the site were hundreds of bags of rice, tomatoes and vegetable oil which smouldered with smoke, as firefighters tried to extinguish the flames.

Residents said the strike occurred at around 3:00 am (0100 GMT).

In the same compound, journalists also saw another completely destroyed building which bore the name "Agricultural Security".

The government minders also told the correspondents of other air strikes in the early hours of Monday that caused "civilian casualties," although they did not elaborate.

Zliten lies about 150 kilometres (100 miles) east of Tripoli, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's stronghold, and 60 kilometres (35 miles) from the rebel-held western coastal enclave of Misrata, Libya's third city.

The guided tour of Zliten came after the rebels forces repulsed a regime counter-offensive southwest of the capital.

Pro-Kadhafi troops had attacked the western desert hamlet of Gualish on Sunday and shelled the region before pulling back under rebel rocket fire as NATO warplanes flew overhead, an AFP correspondent reported.

Three hours of intense fighting ensued and at least two people were wounded.

Rebels in Gualish said they had prevented regime forces from getting within at least a kilometre (less than a mile) of the hamlet, and that they had been reinforced from Zintan, their main base in western Libya.

The insurgents, who have been fighting to oust Kadhafi since mid-February, recaptured Gualish earlier this month and are planning to use it as a launch pad for a western assault on the regime's Tripoli stronghold.

They said their campaign to attack Tripoli from the east has been slowed by efforts to remove an estimated 45,000 land mines from around Brega, a process hampered by a lack of specialised kit.

"We have no choice. We have to clear the sand of mines," Mohammed Zawawy, a spokesman for the Union of Revolutionary Forces in Ajdabiya, told AFP.

The mine problem had sapped some momentum from the campaign to clear Brega of loyalists, although the rebels said Sunday they captured one soldier and sent scores more fleeing west to Bishir village on the road to Ras Lanuf.

Rebels have captured between 10 and 20 regime troops since they seized Brega on July 18, he said, adding one prisoner claimed loyalist fighters had sown "over 45,000 mines" around the Mediterranean town.

In the capital itself, Kadhafi's compound came under NATO air attack on Sunday.

"British forces.. helped to maintain the pressure on Colonel Kadhafi's regime by bombing a key intelligence building in Tripoli and inflicting further losses on forces massed against the Libyan people at Zliten and Gharyan," British military spokesman Nick Pope said.

Tornado and Typhoon warplanes on Sunday struck an engineering academy that has "long been a cover for the regime's nefarious activities," he said in the statement issued in London on Monday.

"Also on Sunday morning, other RAF jets successfully attacked two staging posts near Zliten being used to muster tanks, rocket artillery and ammunition."

In its latest operational update on Monday, NATO said it struck one tank in Zintan, and another tank and a multiple rocket launcher in nearby Gharyan.

It also took out another tank, a surface-to-air missile launcher and a military storage facility in Tripoli, and another such facility in the eastern oil town of Brega.

The strikes came after rebels said they had infiltrated Tripoli and attacked a regime command post where a son of Kadhafi, Seif al-Islam, was among officials targeted, seriously injuring a high-ranking security official.

Libyan officials denied the attack, with government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim saying the rebels were losing in the east and to the southwest, and were trying "to boost their morale with lies and small victories."

Kadhafi said Saturday that the unrest was a "colonial plot," and denied accusations by rights groups of a brutal suppression of dissent and allegations that his regime had killed thousands of protesters.

© 2011 AFP

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