NATO Confirms Libyan Claim of New Airstrike

Posted June 20th, 2011 at 10:05 pm (UTC-5)
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NATO on Monday confirmed a Libyan government claim of an early-morning airstrike that destroyed a large family compound belonging to a close associate of leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The alliance at first denied the strike, saying it had not conducted any recent operations in the area of Surman, about 65 kilometers west of the capital, Tripoli.

The Libyan government said NATO bombs struck Khoweidi al-Hamidi's compound, killing 15 people, including at least two of his grandchildren and his wife.

It said al-Hamidi – a member of Libya's Revolutionary Command Council, led by Mr. Gadhafi – escaped unharmed. The influential insider took part in the 1969 coup that brought the Libyan leader to power. His daughter is married to one of Mr. Gadhafi's sons, Saadi Gadhafi.

NATO said it could not confirm the deaths. A statement termed the compound a “high-level” command center. The latest Libyan accusation comes a day after NATO acknowledged that an airstrike by its forces may have killed civilians in the Libyan capital.

The alliance said Sunday's raid was launched against a military missile site, but “one weapon did not strike the intended target” because of a possible “weapons system failure.” NATO said it regretted the loss of innocent civilian lives.

Libyan officials said the Sunday attack killed nine people, including two children, in one of Tripoli's residential neighborhoods.

Also Monday, more than 20 troops loyal to Mr. Gadhafi defected from a brigade based in southern Libya and joined the anti-government opposition. Four of the men spoke to reporters in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, saying they had escaped from a pro-Gadhafi unit based near Libya's border with Chad.

Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign ministry said Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the rebel Transitional National Council, will make a two-day visit beginning Tuesday.

China held talks earlier this month with an envoy from Mr. Gadhafi, and Chinese diplomats have met with anti-Gadhafi rebels in Benghazi.