Africa

Gaddafi 'not targeted' by strikes

  • 21 March 2011
  • From the section Africa

Allied forces carrying out air strikes in Libya say Colonel Muammar Gaddafi himself is not a target, despite an overnight attack against his compound.

The head of the US Africa Command Gen Carter F Ham said attacking Col Gaddafi was not part of his mission.

And a French spokesman said that even if the Libyan leader's exact location was known, he would not be fired on.

The UN has passed a resolution to protect civilians as Col Gaddafi fights a rebellion that broke out last month.

Tripoli complex hit

On Sunday UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said targeting Col Gaddafi could "potentially be a possibility".

However, on Monday Britain's Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Sir David Richards, said targeting Col Gaddafi was "not allowed under the UN resolution".

And Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs that while he still wanted Col Gaddafi to go, the UN resolution was "limited in scope" and "explicitly does not provide legal authority for action to bring about Gaddafi's removal from power by military means".

The UN document, approved by the Security Council last week, authorises "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from pro-Gaddafi forces - including a no-fly zone.

A French defence ministry spokesman, Laurent Tesseire, said Col Gaddafi was not a target.

Asked by French radio whether the Libyan leader would be fired on if his exact whereabouts were known, he said: "The answer to that is no."

The comments came after a second night of US-led action in Libya. Ten to 12 missiles were fired, a spokesman for the US Africa Command said.

In Tripoli, Col Gaddafi's sprawling Bab al-Aziziya complex was hit. Western journalists taken to the compound were shown a ruined building.

An official from one of the coalition countries, who asked not to be named, told journalists the strike had destroyed Col Gaddafi's "command and control capability".

Between 70 and 80 coalition sorties were flown on Monday.

Gen Ham said there was "no intent to destroy completely the Libyan military".

But he added: "If they stop and take up defensive positions, we can attack. It depends on where they are and what their intentions are. If they attack civilians, it is within our mandate to attack them."

But Gen Ham said there had been no direct co-ordination with anti-Gaddafi rebels.

He also said the no-fly zone would soon expand to cover a 1,000-km (620-miles) area.

The coalition's action against Col Gaddafi began on Saturday with French air strikes in the east. A barrage of cruise missiles, launched from US and British surface ships and submarines followed.

'Misinterpreted'

Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned the UN resolution as "flawed".

"It allows everything," he said on Monday. "It resembles medieval calls for crusades." Russia abstained during the Security Council vote on the resolution last week.

Mr Medvedev said Mr Putin's use of the word "crusade" was unacceptable.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, who had previously appeared to criticise the coalition air strikes, said on Monday his comments had been "misinterpreted" and that the league was "committed to UN Security Council Resolution 1973".

Diplomats say a UN Security Council meeting will be held behind closed doors on Monday to discuss the Libyan situation.

Envoys from Nato met in Brussels on Monday to try to sort out any differences of strategy, amid concerns from Turkey in particular about military involvement.

But French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Nato would be ready to support the coalition within "a few days".

Renewed fighting was reported in Misrata, 200km (130 miles) east of Tripoli, on Monday.

The city has been under siege by government troops and rebel spokesmen said pro-Gaddafi forces were using "overwhelming firepower" and had bombarded the city for a fourth day.

Separate rebel spokesmen said there had been between nine and 11 deaths at the hands of pro-Gaddafi forces but the reports cannot be independently confirmed.

There were reports that pro-Gaddafi forces were bringing civilians to Misrata from outlying areas to deter further allied strikes.

Col Gaddafi has ruled Libya for more than 40 years. An uprising against him began after the long-time leaders of neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt were toppled.

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