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LIBYA: NATO airstrikes hit government buildings in Tripoli, officials say

May 16, 2011 |  8:26 pm

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Firefighters worked to douse flames as passersby gathered to gawk at the site of a pair of heavily damaged government buildings that Libyan officials said were hit early Tuesday by NATO warplanes.

One building housed a police investigations office whereas the other, just across the street, was known as the Ministry of Popular Inspection and Oversight, a watchdog agency that reviewed complaints of government and private-sector corruption, said Musa Ibrahim, a Kadafi government spokesman.

Flames engulfed both structures, in a residential neighborhood of the capita, as journalists arrived on the scene. Government officials have been busing journalists to sites they say have been hit by NATO warplanes.

On Monday evening, several loud explosions had been heard across Tripoli.

There was no word on casualties at the two sites. NATO had no immediate comment.

Among the watchdog agency’s many files, the Libyan spokesman said, were documents detailing the corruption of ex-regime  officials who have switched sides and joined the rebels fighting to overthrow Moammar Kadafi. The rebel leadership in the eastern city of Benghazi probably convinced NATO to target the ministry in a bid to destroy the evidence, Ibrahim alleged.

“In Benghazi you  are dealing with people you should not trust,” the government spokesman declared in a message directed to NATO.

The files, he said, had survived and would be made available to Western governments if they were interested.

Neither site, the spokesman said, had anything to do with repression of civilians. NATO is bombing Libya under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians from Kadafi’s regime.

As sirens wailed in the early-morning hours, people at the site of the inspection ministry gathered papers — many water-logged from the fire hoses that had been blasted into a courtyard. Some participants shouted pro-government slogans.

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Photo: Firemen and rescue personnel work to put out the flames at the scene of two explosions in Tripoli, Libya. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

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