Nato airstrikes hit two government buildings in the Libyan capital Tripoli today.
Muammar Gaddafi’s regime immediately claimed that its interior ministry was targeted because it contained files on corruption cases against senior members of the Benghazi-based rebel leadership.
The latest strikes on Gaddafi’s stronghold came just hours after the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor sought arrest warrants for the Libyan leader, his son and the country’s intelligence chief for authorising the killing of civilians in a crackdown on anti-government rebels. Gaddafi’s government denied the allegations.
Meanwhile a Libyan government spokesman appealed for a ceasefire and said authorities were likely to release four foreign reporters held in a Tripoli after they face trial in an administrative court.
Nato has stepped up strikes on Tripoli in an apparent attempt to weaken Gaddafi’s chief stronghold and potentially target the leader himself.
Government escorts took reporters from their hotel to the site of the overnight airstrikes. Smoke and flames engulfed the top floors of the interior ministry building as dozens of young men, many of them armed with assault rifles, milled outside the gate.
Nearby, black smoke poured out of a complex that officials said included offices used by authorities overseeing corruption cases. Soldiers collected half-burnt papers strewn amid the smashed glass and twisted metal as fire fighters sprayed water on the flames.
The Libyan spokesman. suggested the ministry was targeted because it contained files on rebel leaders in Benghazi, the de-facto capital of the eastern half of the country, which is under opposition control.
“If they (Nato) are really interested in protecting civilians ... then we call upon them to stop and start talking to us,” he said.
After the airstrikes, sporadic gunfire could be heard near the Tripoli hotel where reporters are staying.
Libyan TV said Nato airstrikes also hit Tajoura in Tripoli, and Zawiya, about 30 miles west of the capital.