NATO warplanes on Monday carried out attacks in central Tripoli, which local officials said were an attempt on the life of Muammar Qadhafi.
Two large guided bombs targeted two regime buildings inside Mr. Qadhafi's sprawling Bab al-Aziziya complex shortly after midnight on Monday. The bombs hit a multi-storey building, which is apparently close to a base from where the Libyan leader has been directing the civil war against opposition fighters. The roof of a library used by Mr. Qadhafi inside the building had also caved in, said witnesses.
Another structure, used for ceremonial receptions, was also targeted. A fortnight ago, Mr. Qadafi had hosted a delegation from the African Union, which included South African President Jacob Zuma, in the building.
AFP quoted a Libyan official as saying at least 45 people were injured, of which, 15 are in serious condition. “It was an attempt to assassinate Colonel Qadhafi,” he added. The giant Al-Aziziya complex has living quarters, official buildings and, apparently, houses military command facilities.
Analysts say the attack was a stratagem employed by the Obama administration possibly to curry favour with Washington hardliners, as well as an attempt to unnerve Mr. Qadhafi.
In Washington, three members of the Senate Armed forces committee — Senators Lindsey O. Graham, Joseph I. Lieberman and John McCain — said that in their interpretation, U.N. Security council 1973 resolution allowed attacks on Libya's top leadership in Tripoli in order to protect civilians. “I can't think of anything that would protect the civilian population of Libya more than the removal of Muammar Qadhafi,” CNN quoted Mr. Lieberman as saying. The NATO attacks on Mr. Qadhafi's compound coincided well with the hardline assertions of the Senators.
In Brussels, a NATO spokesman said the alliance is increasingly targeting regime facilities as the government's advances on the battlefield had halted.
“We have moved on to those command and control facilities that are used to coordinate such attacks by regime forces,” said the spokesman regarding the attack on Bab al-Aziziya.
Within hours of the strikes, Russia objected strongly to the targeting of Mr. Qadhafi's compound.
“The no-fly zone does not stipulate hitting ground targets,” Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Monday after talks with South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity in Tskhinvali. Earlier, Mr. Lavrov had proposed dispatching observers to Libya in a bid to find a peaceful end to the crisis.
China, which along with Russia had abstained from voting on the U.N. resolution on Libya, has objected to Britain's decision to send combat trainers into Libya to assist opposition fighters. “China disapproves of taking any actions that exceed the mandate of the Security Council,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim said the Army was withdrawing frpm Misurata, but 60,000 armed men from pro-Qadhafi tribes could enter the city if opposition fighters denied them access to the city's port.
There was also fighting in the western town of Zintan, where residents said four people were killed on Monday due to Grad rocket attacks by Mr. Qadhafi's loyalists.