NATO warplanes hit Libyan capital 'command centre'

TRIPOLI, Imed Lamloum- NATO-led warplanes struck the Libyan capital early on Saturday, with the alliance saying they hit a military command centre and Moamer Kadhafi's regime saying that civilians were targeted.
At least seven powerful explosions were heard at around 2:20 am (0020 GMT), as state television quoted a military official as saying NATO aircraft "are currently bombing civilian sites in the capital Tripoli."
In Brussels, an Atlantic alliance official said "NATO can confirm that we targeted military objectives in Tripoli this morning," and that the seven strikes were on a command and control node.

Two more explosions were heard in the same area at about midday.
The attack came after rebel forces said they had lost 16 fighters east of Tripoli and that they infiltrated the capital and attacked a regime command post where a son of the strongman was among officials targeted.
The rebels, who have been fighting to oust Kadhafi for more than five months, said the assault "seriously injured" a high-ranking member of Kadhafi's security forces.
"Yesterday (Thursday) in Tripoli, there was an attack on an operations centre of top regime officials, including Seif al-Islam Kadhafi," National Transitional Council vice president Ali Essawy said after meeting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in Rome.
"One person was left seriously injured," he said, identifying the person as a high-ranking security official.
Frattini said the "rocket attack against an operations centre" probably in a Tripoli hotel was aimed at "top officials... including Kadhafi's son Seif, and the head of the secret service, Abdullah al-Senussi."
On Thursday, unconfirmed rumours swirled that rebels in Tripoli had tried to assassinate senior regime members that day.
Since the revolution began in mid-February, a number of Tripoli-based groups have broadcast videos purporting to show acts of civil disobedience in the heavily controlled capital.
Libyan officials denied the attack occurred and denounced as "criminal and unjustified" what they said were NATO raids that killed six guards at a pipeline factory south of an oil plant in the eastern town of Brega.
"There was no attack," government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters of the rebels' claims that they had attacked a Tripoli command post.
Rebel forces, he said, were losing their battles in the east of the country and to the southwest and were trying "to boost their morale with lies and small victories."
Elsewhere, the rebels said 16 of their men were killed in two days of fighting for Zliten, the last coastal city between insurgent-held Misrata and the capital.
"Sixteen of our fighters have fallen as martyrs and 126 more have been wounded in fighting with loyalist troops in Zliten," said a rebel statement, with clashes said to be particularly heavy in the suburb of Souk al-Thulatha.
The insurgents have been trying for weeks to take Zliten, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Tripoli and 40 kilometres west of Misrata.
The rebels say they have chased the bulk of Kadhafi's forces from Brega in the east and are poised to advance towards the capital from Misrata and their other western enclave in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of Tripoli.
Rebels at Brega now face "negligible" resistance, military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani said on Saturday.
"The only thing that is holding back the free Libya forces are the mines. Removal of these mines is a process that will take a few more days.
"As far as any resistance inside Brega, it is negligible."
Bani insisted a final push would be possible as soon as the mines are cleared.
"It is a foregone conclusion... it is just a question of removing the mines, they are the only thing that defend Brega against us entering."
In the west, the Nafusa campaign is focused on Asabah, gateway to the garrison town of Gharyan on the highway to Tripoli.
Meanwhile, in the remote desert 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) south of Tripoli, Toubou tribal fighters said they had lost control of the oasis of Qatrun.
The strongman's troops swept in from the north on Thursday, forcing rebel fighters out, according to Mohammed Lino in Benghazi, who relayed information gleaned via satellite phone.
At least two people were reported killed and eight wounded.
Lino said Kadhafi's forces had been camped on the north side of the town and rebels in the south, with an estimated 20,000 civilians trapped between them.

Saturday, July 23rd 2011
Imed Lamloum

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