Nato air strikes have hit Muammar Gaddafi’s sprawling compound in Tripoli and three other sites, hours after the Libyan leader was shown on state TV in his first appearance since his son was killed nearly two weeks ago.
Explosions thundered across the Libyan capital early today and wailing ambulances raced through the city as the last missile exploded.
Government officials and state-run Libyan television said the strikes targeted Bab al-Azaziya, Gaddafi’s compound.
At the nearby Khadra Hospital, medics wheeled in the bodies of two men they said were killed in the shelling.
From a bus ferrying reporters to the hospital, smoke could be seen rising from part of the Gaddafi compound.
The medics said others had been killed by the air strikes and were still being retrieved from the compound.
Gaddafi’s compound has frequently targeted by air attacks including one on April 30 that killed his son, Seif al-Arab. Officials said the Libyan leader was in the compound when that strike occurred but escaped unharmed.
In an apparent effort to dispel rumours that Gaddafi himself had been killed, Libyan state TV showed him meeting tribal leaders, but did not record him speaking. To authenticate the scene, the camera zoomed in on the date on a TV monitor in the room, which read Wednesday, May 11.
The last time Gaddafi had been seen in public was April 9, when he visited a school in Tripoli.
According to the Libyan state news agency, JANA, one of the Nato strikes hit the North Korean Embassy in Tripoli. JANA said the mission was badly damaged by fragments of a Nato missile fired on Monday.
Intensified strikes on Gaddafi’s forces across Libya have given a boost to rebels, with the opposition claiming that it had captured the airport in the western city of Misrata.
A government spokesman denied the Misrata rebels’ claims of success.
“This is nonsense,” said Moussa Ibrahim. “We control the airport and we also control the sea port.”
Even though some of the recent reports of ground combat are difficult to confirm, they seem to represent a major boost for the rebels’ military prospects after weeks of stalemate on several fronts.
According to a rebel who identified himself as Abdel Salam, rebels were in total control of the airport in Misrata’s southern outskirts after two days of fighting. He said five rebels were killed and 105 injured.
He said rebels are also pushing west from Misrata, toward the nearby city of Zlitan, hoping to then advance farther toward Tripoli.
The rebels control most of eastern Libya, but Misrata – about 125 miles (200 kilometres) south-east of Tripoli – is the only rebel stronghold in the west.