NATO strikes Gadhafi office compound, Italy joins the fight
TRIPOLI, Libya — NATO warplanes struck Moammar Gadhafi’s compound here early on Monday and also bombed a state television complex in an escalation of the air campaign to aid the rebellion against his four decades in power.
The attack on the compound was the third since air raids began in mid-March, but the strike at the television complex was the most significant broadening yet of the NATO air campaign, suggesting that nonmilitary targets would be hit in an effort to break down the instruments of Gadhafi’s broader control.
A senior Libyan government official said that the strike knocked state television off the air for about a half hour.
In the port of Misrata, 130 miles east of Tripoli, the capital, rebels reported that a widely publicized government pullback had given way to renewed shelling by Gadhafi’s forces from outside the city. The initial withdrawal over the weekend after a nearly two-month siege had bewildered some rebels.
Also on Monday, Italy, after weeks of declining to participate in direct bombing raids, said for the first time that it would begin striking select military targets in Libya.
In Tripoli, at least two large bomb blasts thundered in the city just after midnight, and journalists escorted to the compound by government officials saw firefighters hosing down the smoldering remains of an office complex where Gadhafi works and meets visitors. The explosions sent cement and debris flying more than 50 yards. There were no signs of armaments, and Libyan officials said that no one was killed, although they said that as many as 45 people were slightly injured.
A government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said later that three people had been killed and 45 were injured, 15 of them seriously, by the airstrikes. He did not elaborate and turned down a request to arrange for interviews with the wounded.
Ibrahim declined comment on whether Gadhafi was in the compound at the time of the attack, but he said the Libyan government considered the attack “an attempt to assassinate the leader and unifying figure of this country.”
“He is well,” Ibrahim said of Gadhafi. “He is healthy. He is in high spirits.” Gadhafi, who has made infrequent appearances in Tripoli since the uprising began, was conducting business as usual on Monday, meeting with government officials and tribal elders, Ibrahim told reporters at the scene.