NATO dismisses report of Libyan civilian casualties in air strikes

A NATO spokesman said on Tuesday that the alliance's aircrafts bombed a "military target" on Monday near the city of Zlitan in western Libya, but dismissed reports of heavy civilian casualties.

"The target is two former farms building, which has been taken over by pro-Gaddafi forces and transformed into a field military complex," said Colonel Roland Lavoie, spokesman for NATO's Libya operation.

Equipped with temporary accommodation facilities, the two buildings were "used as a staging point from which pro-Gaddafi forces were reinforcing troops, weaponry and other military equipments," Lavoie added.

Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters that NATO air strikes in the village of Majer, 10 kilometers south of Zlitan, killed 85 villagers.

Lavoie dismissed the accusation, saying NATO has no "evidence of civilian casualties at this stage."

However, he acknowledged that "casualties among military personnel, including mercenaries are very likely due to the nature of the target."

Lavoie also confirmed that NATO aircraft struck a frigate in Tripoli on Monday, as pro-Gaddafi forces were "removing weaponry and ammunition from the warship with an intent of using them from old platforms."

On Wednesday, the North Atlantic Council, the decision-making body of NATO, would meet with partner countries to review the military alliance's operation in Libya, which has lasted over four month, but failed to bomb Muammar Gaddafi out of power.

[Source: Xinhua, Brussels, 09Aug11]

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