Gaddafi compound under renewed NATO attack

SEVERAL large explosions rocked the Libyan capital Tripoli last night and a column of smoke was seen rising from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound.

Five loud blasts were heard within the span of 10 minutes, Reuters reported..

Al-Arabiya television also reported that the compound had come under NATO attack, citing its correspondent.

Earlier, forces loyal to Gaddafi bombarded the rebel-held city of Misrata with mortars as the United States said a fresh ceasefire offer from Gaddafi’s government was not credible.

The bombardment of Misrata was the heaviest for days and came as Western leaders, gathering for a Group of Eight summit in the French seaside resort of Deauville, were expected to reiterate their determination to force Gaddafi out.

Rebel spokesmen in Misrata, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in Libya’s three-month-old conflict, said the mortar attack killed three rebels.

Earlier, the sound of exploding mortar shells could be heard every few minutes in the western outskirts of Misrata and there was a steady stream of ambulances, a Reuters reporter said. At Misrata’s hospital, rebel fighters mourned their dead colleague.

Suleim Al-Faqih, one of the rebels, said the clashes started when rebels attacked pro-Gaddafi forces who were using an excavator to dig a trench to block a road. “We fired on them and advanced. They fell back and started firing mortars,” he said.

Spain said it was one of several foreign states contacted by Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi with an offer of an immediate ceasefire.

But White House deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, speaking in Deauville at the G8 summit, said the United States did not see the new Libyan ceasefire offer as credible because it was not accompanied by action.

Libya was not complying with UN demands and its forces were still attacking population centres, so the United States would continue with the military campaign, he told reporters.

At a news conference in Tripoli, Al-Mahmoudi said the offer was based on an existing African Union “roadmap” to resolve the conflict, which does not include any mention of Gaddafi’s own future — a crucial sticking point.

“Libya is serious about a ceasefire,” he said.

But he added: “The leader Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the Libyan people; he decides what the Libyan people think. He is in the hearts of the Libyan people. If he departs, then so do all the Libyan people.”

Gaddafi’s security forces cracked down ferociously when thousands of Libyans rebelled against his rule.

NATO missiles and warplanes have been bombing targets in Libya for two months under a UN mandate to protect civilians from attack.

Rebels now control the east of the country, around their main stronghold of Benghazi, and pockets of land in the West.

But the conflict has reached stalemate on the ground, with the rebels unable to advance toward Tripoli and NATO powers — wary of getting sucked into new conflicts after Iraq and Afghanistan.


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