Strike destroys Gaddafi's command and control building

Coalition forces hit compound which includes Libyan leader's residence; attack comes after US rejects ceasefire ordered by Libyan army.

By REUTERS
March 21, 2011 04:26
3 minute read.
Rebel fighter runs for cover in front of vehicles

Libya bombing 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)

 
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Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's "command and control capability" was destroyed late Sunday in an airstrike on an administrative building in Tripoli, an official of the international coalition intervening in Libya told AFP.

According to the report, the strike hit the compound housing Gaddafi's residence in Tripoli.

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It was unclear where Gaddafi was at the time of the blast.

"The coalition is actively enforcing UNSCR (UN Security Council Resolution) 1973, and that in keeping with that mission, we continue to strike those targets which pose a direct threat to the Libyan people and to our ability to implement the no-fly zone," the official was quoted as saying by AFP.

The administrative building, which was located about 50 meters from Gaddafi's tent, was flattened, AFP reported.

Earlier Sunday, the Libyan armed forces issued a command to all units to observe an immediate ceasefire, a Libyan army spokesman said at a news conference.



The announcement came after some 24 hours of air bombardment from American, French and British forces aiming to implement a UN resolution authorising the use of force to protect Libyan civilians from government troops.

"The Libyan armed forces ... have issued a command to all military units to safeguard an immediate ceasefire from 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) this evening," a Libyan army spokesman said.

In response, the United States said late Sunday it would not recognize a ceasefire declared by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

"Our view at this point...is that it isn't true, or has been immediately violated," White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told reporters. Donilon also said that the United States and its allies had a "good first day" in their intervention in Libya

Sunday evening, heavy anti-aircraft gunfire was heard in central Tripoli, a Reuters reporter said.

The sustained bursts were accompanied by tracer rounds. Machinegun fire was also heard.

Earlier, Western forces pounded Libya's air defenses and patrolled its skies, but their day-old intervention hit a serious diplomatic setback as the Arab League chief condemned the "bombardment of civilians".

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed to defeat the Western powers' "terrorism" and sent his troops and tanks into the rebel-held coastal city of Misrata, residents said.

European and US forces unleashed warplanes and cruise missiles against Gaddafi on Saturday in a United Nations-backed intervention to prevent the veteran leader from killing civilians as he fights an uprising against his 41-year rule.

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But Arab League chief Amr Moussa said what was happening was not what Arabs had envisaged when they called for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.

"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," he said.

In comments carried by Egypt's official state news agency, Moussa also said he was calling for an emergency Arab League meeting.

Arab backing for a no-fly zone provided crucial underpinning for the passage of the UN Security Council resolution last week that paved the way for the Western intervention, the biggest against an Arab country since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Withdrawal of that support would make it much harder to pursue what some defense analysts say could in any case be a difficult, open-ended campaign with an uncertain outcome.

The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the no-fly zone was effectively in place. But he told CBS the endgame of military action was "very uncertain" and acknowledged it could end in a stalemate with Gaddafi.

Mullen said he had seen no reports of civilian casualties from the Western strikes. But Russia said there had been such casualties and called on Britain, France and the United States to halt the "non-selective use of force".

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