Bloomberg News

NATO Acknowledges Possible Civilian Casualties in Tripoli Strike

June 19, 2011

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- NATO warplanes didn’t all hit intended targets in Tripoli and may have killed civilians, the alliance said in an e-mailed statement after Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Ati Al-Obeidi said yesterday that a private house in Tripoli had been hit, causing several deaths.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said that, while the intended target was a military missile site, “it appears that one weapon did not strike the intended target” and may have caused “a number of civilian casualties,” an e-mailed statement from NATO said.

“NATO regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes against a regime determined to use violence against its own citizens,” said NATO commander Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard. The incident is still under investigation, he said in the NATO statement.

The missile strike destroyed a house in the Souk al- Gomaa residential area, killing nine civilians and wounding 18 others, Obeidi said. Four members of a Syrian family, including two children, died in the attack, Syrian state television reported. Eight rebels were killed and 36 injured in combat with troops loyal to Qaddafi west of Misrata yesterday, Al Jazeera reported.

Opposition has been growing in the U.S. and Europe to the United Nations-mandated aerial campaign against Muammar Qaddafi’s forces, which is intended to protect civilians. Four months after the uprising against Qaddafi began, rebel troops have failed to take and hold strategic towns such as Brega while other cities, such as the rebel-held port city of Misrata, remain under siege by loyalist forces.

Violence in the region has helped push up oil prices, with futures up 22 percent from a year ago.

Qaddafi Weakening

Qaddafi’s troops are beginning to weaken, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The U.S. will continue to support the NATO-led mission in Libya until Qaddafi is removed from power, Gates said yesterday in interviews on CNN’s “State of the Union” program and “Fox News Sunday.”

“The allies are prepared to sustain this,” Gates said on CNN. “Qaddafi will eventually fail.”

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad will make a speech at noon local time today concerning the current situation in his country, state television reported without citing anyone.

Protests against the Syrian ruler began in mid-March, part of demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa this year that have unseated the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.

Unrelenting Crackdown

The U.K. advised all British nationals to leave Syria immediately over the weekend amid an unrelenting government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that has killed more than 1,200 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross is scheduled to arrive in Damascus today to discuss measures to aid Syrian refugees, Al Jazeera reported.

“Syria is going through an era of unrest, but the Obama administration won’t be able to blackmail Syria,” Syrian Ambassador to the U.S. Emad Mustafa told Al-Khaleej newspaper. “It’s a golden opportunity for Washington to blackmail Syria in an attempt to get concessions.”

The Syrian government distinguishes between the peaceful protesters and the armed groups and Assad “will address all these things in his speech tomorrow,” he said.

Turkish Border

Syrian troops combing through villages near the Turkish border set fire to homes and a bakery yesterday, according to the AP. Activists said the military carried out mass arrests and threw up checkpoints to block residents from fleeing.

Ersat Hurmuzlu, senior adviser to Turkish President Addullah Gul, told Al-Arabiya that Turkey would welcome Maher Al-Assad, brother of the Syrian president, in Turkey if that would help solve the crisis in Syria.

“We are looking forward to Assad’s speech tomorrow,” he said.

Yemeni religious clerics have called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ouster, joining demands from protesters that the embattled leader to step down.

The clerics urged Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi to establish a caretaker government to run the country and prepare for presidential elections in 60 days, according to a statement e-mailed June 18 and signed by 110 clerics.

--With assistance from Zaid Sabah Abd Alhamid in Washington and Maher Chmaytelli in Tripoli. Editors: Ann Hughey, Andrea Snyder.

To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at hrosenkrantz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.


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