New Explosions Rock Tripoli

Posted June 2nd, 2011 at 7:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Several explosions rocked the Libyan capital, Tripoli, early Friday. It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties.

For the last several nights, NATO warplanes have bombed targets in Tripoli, including leader Moammar Gadhafi's sprawling residential and command compound. Mr. Gadhafi has rarely been seen in public since a NATO airstrike killed one of his sons in April.

Meanwhile, a Libyan woman who claimed she was gang-raped by troops loyal to Mr. Gadhafi was forcibly deported Thursday from Qatar to the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Officials with the U.N. refugee agency said Imad al-Obeidi had been awaiting resettlement as a refugee and that UNHCR was in the process of preparing papers for her departure from Qatar to a third country. The officials said al-Obeidi's deportation is against international law.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. is concerned for al-Obeidi's safety and has been working to ensure she finds “appropriate asylum.” Toner said U.S. officials have spoken to her in recent days.

Al-Obeidi burst into a Tripoli hotel in March to tell foreign journalists she had been raped by government troops, saying she was targeted because she is from Benghazi. Her rape claim could not be independently verified.

Libyan authorities have alternately called al-Obeidi a drunk, a prostitute and a thief.

Western governments say they believe that, through a combination of diplomatic pressure and military action, they are wearing down Mr. Gaddafi's ability to control Libya. However, the U.S. role in the conflict has been controversial at home.

Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled legislation Thursday that would allow the United States to remain engaged in a NATO-led operation against Libya but bar the use of any ground troops except to rescue a U.S. service member from imminent danger.

The legislation said President Barack Obama had failed to give Congress a “compelling rationale” for the U.S. operation in Libya and demanded he do so in writing within 14 days.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell responding sharply to the criticism Thursday. He said Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes once the U.S. is committed to a NATO operation, to unilaterally abandon it “would have enormous and dangerous long-term consequences.” Morrell said approval of the resolution would send an “unhelpful message of disunity” to allies and foes alike.

A vote on the issue was postponed on Wednesday. Mr. Obama backs an alternative Senate resolution written by Senators John Kerry and John McCain supporting the U.S. military role in the NATO-led operation. The Senate could vote on that resolution next week.