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LIBYA: Tripoli hit hard by NATO air attack

May 23, 2011 |  8:02 pm


First came the roar of fighter jets, then a bright flash on the horizon, and then the impact.

It happened at least a dozen times in Tripoli early Tuesday, starting about 1 a.m. The successive concussions stunned a capital that had been struck before during the Western-led bombing campaign, but never this hard.

Click here for an interactive map highlighting daily developments in the Middle East and North Africa Before long, an angry crowd had gathered outside the hotel where foreign journalists were staying, waving green flags and shouting in defiance of the bombardment.

Journalists were taken in a bus to Tripoli Central Hospital, where, officials said, many of the 150 wounded were treated. The three confirmed dead--martyrs, the government spokesman called them--were laid out on gurneys in a small room.

All three victims appeared to be men in their 20s or 30s. Photographers filed in and out to photograph them. Each one had massive head wounds. Blood oozed onto the floor. Their clothes were covered with dust from the rubble.

Doctors endeavored to treat patients amid the chaos. One man who was wheeled by had a deep gash in his head. Physicians tried to revive an unconscious teenager.

The Communications Ministry provided extra security for the journalists. In Iraq and elsewhere, angry family members of the dead or injured have been known to lash out at Western media representatives.

An enraged resident, Fathallah Salem, a father of seven, confronted the news crews and reporters. He said he had brought his mother, 75, to the hospital. She was suffering from shock, he said.

“I thought it was judgment day,” Salem 45, said of the bombing barrage. “We have our problems in Libya, but we can work them out ourselves.”

He veered off into politics, saying the bombing would increase support for Moammar Kadafi. More wounded were wheeled in. Hospital staffers chanted nationalist slogans. It was time to go. The bombing seemed to have stopped.

Later, NATO issued a news release from Naples, Italy, from where many of its warplanes take off.

The alliance said NATO aircraft “using a number of precision-guided weapons” had struck “a regime vehicle storage facility” next to Kadafi’s fortified Bab Azizia compound. The storage site, NATO said, had been used to resupply regime forces “that have been conducting attacks against innocent civilians.”

A Libyan government spokesman said the bombs struck a “popular guard,” or reservist, facility. No one was on site, the spokesman said, since an attack had been expected. The casualties, he said, lived in nearby buildings.

“NATO aircraft,” the alliance said, strike with precision and care to minimise [sic] the risk of collateral damage to the fullest extent possible.”


Tripoli's medina is the heart of the Libyan capital

British, French attack helicopters en route to Libya

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-- Patrick J. McDonnell in Tripoli, Libya

Photo: Smoke rises above buildings in Tripoli early May 24, 2011. Credit: Louafi Larbi / Reuters.