NATO Strikes Targets in Tripoli, Gadhafi’s Oil Minister Defects

Posted June 2nd, 2011 at 9:00 am (UTC-5)
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NATO warplanes have carried out more strikes on Libyan military targets in Tripoli, where the government of leader Moammar Gadhafi suffered another setback with the defection of its oil minister.

At least three airstrikes shook the Libyan capital early Thursday. NATO's latest operational update says the alliance hit a military vehicle storage facility and a missile launcher among other targets in the Tripoli area. Libyan state television accused NATO of seeking to “destroy” the country's infrastructure.

Libyan Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem said in Rome Wednesday that he left his job because the violence and killing in his homeland had become “unbearable.” He is one of the most prominent officials to have abandoned Mr. Gadhafi's government since a Libyan rebel uprising began in February.

Italy's ANSA news agency quoted Ghanem as saying he plans to “join young Libyans to fight for a democratic country.” Ghanem said he has not yet decided whether he will cooperate with the rebel National Transitional Council based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Last month, Libyan officials denied reports Ghanem had defected in Tunisia, saying instead that he was abroad on business. His announcement in Rome came two days after eight senior Libyan army officers held a news conference there saying they had abandoned Libyan government forces and urging fellow security officials to do the same.

Also Wednesday, a U.N. Human Rights Council panel investigating the Libyan conflict said forces loyal to Mr. Gadhafi and anti-government rebels have both committed war crimes.

Three U.N.-appointed experts said in the report that the violations committed by pro-Gadhafi forces were severe enough to also constitute crimes against humanity. They said the acts by opposition armed forces were not severe or widespread enough to be put in that category.

Last month, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for Mr. Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and Intelligence Chief Abdullah al-Senoussi for alleged crimes against humanity. Libyan officials dismissed the ICC request, saying the court has no jurisdiction in the country.

The U.N. report came the same day that NATO extended its military mission in Libya for 90 days. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the move is meant to send a clear message to the Gadhafi government that the pressure to oust him will continue.