Libyan government accuses NATO of targeting civilians

The Libyan government on Tuesday accused NATO of targeting civilians, and of so far killing 700, as heavy fighting continued between Moamer Gaddafi's forces and rebels near the city of Misurata, DPA reported.

Libyan security forces claimed to have overheard a telephone conversation in which NATO officials said they planned to target the homes of all of Gaddafi's children, a government official who chose to remain unnamed told the German Press Agency dpa.

"We accuse NATO of carrying out targeted assassinations and attacks against civilians in Libya," the official said.

Government officials claim that NATO airstrikes, which began in late March with the aim of protecting civilians, have killed 700 civilians so far, according to regional broadcaster Al Jazeera.

A NATO attack also killed 15 civilians including relatives former Interior Minister Khuwaylidi al-Hamidi, closely linked to Gaddafi, on Monday, the government said Monday.

The accusations came after NATO admitted on Sunday for the first time that civilians had been killed during a bombing raid over Tripoli.

Meanwhile, Khaled Abu Falgha, a spokesperson for Misurata's medical committee, said at least 7,000 people had been killed and another 7,000 injured in the westerm port city alone since the fighting began, the opposition al-Qurayna news website reported.

Misurata has seen some of the bloodiest battles, with Gaddafi's forces laying siege to the city for several weeks, cutting off electricity, the sewage system, and preventing the delivery of food and medical supplies.

In the rebel-held city of Benghazi, further east, opposition forces arrested 130 people suspected of being Gaddafi loyalists who were planning attacks in the city.

A spokesperson for the Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC) said rebels prevented an attack on the Tebesty Hotel in Benghazi, where council members and visiting officials from abroad often stay, according to al-Qurayna.

Meanwhile, 22 Libyan soldiers announced their defection from Gaddafi's forces after their arrival in Benghazi.

In a televised press conference, the soldiers said they had been given orders to "show no mercy" to opposition members or rebel fighters in their custody.

Meanwhile, a senior British military commander warned Tuesday that Britain's contribution to the NATO-led mission in Libya could not be sustained if it lasted beyond September because of defence cuts and the parallel commitment in Afghanistan.

Air Chief Marshal Simon Bryant, the second-in-command of the Royal Air Force (RAF), said the operations in Libya and Afghanistan together were placing "huge demands" on equipment and personnel.

In a briefing paper published Tuesday by the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Bryant said the "fighting spirit" of airmen was being undermined by an intense workload as many areas of the RAF were "running hot."

"There is concern over the perceived lack of strategic direction which is restricting confidence in the senior leadership," said Bryant in the briefing paper.

[Source: Trend, Deutsche Press-Agentur, Baku, 21Jun11]

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