Libya: Nato in fresh strike on Gaddafi compound

media captionThe BBC's Christian Fraser was shown the aftermath of an apparent airstrike in Tripoli

Nato air strikes have again hit the compound of Col Muammar Gaddafi, hours after Libyan state TV showed footage purportedly of the leader in Tripoli.

Libyan government officials said the attack in the early hours of Thursday killed three people, although this cannot be independently verified.

Correspondents said three rockets hit the base and caused extensive damage.

A video of Col Gaddafi aired Wednesday was the leader's first appearance since his son was killed two weeks ago.

Nato has repeatedly hit Tripoli this week as it intensifies its operations against Col Gaddafi, who has been fighting to crush a three-month old rebellion against his rule.

Embassy dispute

Smoke rose from the Gaddafi compound, Bab al-Azaziya, and ambulances raced through the city as the last missile struck early on Thursday, reports said.

Journalists were taken by government officials to the compound to survey the damage.

Libyan government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim said that Nato, which "once again is deprived of all morals and all civilisation", had fired five missiles on the compound.

"Three people died - two of them are journalists and one was their guide who was helping them film a documentary," Mr Ibrahim told a news conference in the compound, held next to a large, water-filled crater.

He said the journalists had been filming "hundreds of people who were celebrating their resilience against Nato".

Nato has not commented on the latest strike, but has said that most of the alliance's 46 air strikes on Wednesday were focused on and around Tripoli, hitting command and control centres, ammunition dumps and anti-aircraft missile launchers.

State television also reported that the North Korean embassy in Tripoli was damaged in the overnight Nato strikes. Nato has denied this.

In another development on Thursday, France said one of its citizens had been shot dead and four others arrested in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

It was not clear who the five were or what they were doing in Benghazi, but a French foreign ministry statement said: "During a police check in Benghazi last night, five French nationals were detained. One of them was wounded by a bullet and died overnight in a hospital in Benghazi."

'Primary partner'

On Wednesday, state television showed Col Gaddafi meeting tribal leaders. It said they had met in Tripoli earlier that day.

media captionLibyan state television said Col Gaddafi met tribal leaders in Tripoli on Wednesday but the BBC can not independently verify when this footage was filmed

It was the first appearance of the leader since one of his sons and three of his grandchildren were killed two weeks ago in a Nato strike on the Bab al-Azaziya compound.

In the footage, Col Gaddafi was dressed in his trademark brown robes, dark sunglasses and black hat. He appeared to be in good health.

Meanwhile, the US government has said it has invited representatives of Libya's rebels to the White House on Friday.

A delegation from the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC), including senior leader Mahmoud Gibril, will meet National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and members of the US Congress.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday invited the TNC to set up an office in Britain.

After meeting TNC leaders in London, Mr Cameron praised the group and described them as "Britain's primary partner" in Libya.

At a news conference, rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil reiterated calls for the UK to provide them with weapons.

"We need some lethal weapons. The British government has offered non-lethal (gear) such as night vision equipment and body armour.

"Col Gaddafi has heavy weaponry. We need light weapons, which is not equivalent to Gaddafi's weaponry, but perhaps with courage, which Libyan people have, there may be some kind of balance," he said.

On Wednesday, eyewitnesses said Misrata airport had fallen to the rebels after hours of fighting with pro-Gaddafi forces.

Misrata, Libya's third-largest city, is the only significant western rebel holdout and is strategically important because of its deep-sea port, which has become a lifeline for delivering aid and for evacuating the wounded.

image copyright(C) British Broadcasting Corporation