NATO warplanes bombed Libyan state TV satellite transmitters in Tripoli overnight because they were being used to incite violence and threaten civilians, the military alliance said on Saturday.
A series of loud explosions echoed across the capital before dawn. There was no immediate comment from Libyan officials on what had been hit, but State TV was still on the air in Tripoli on Saturday morning.
NATO said the airstrikes aimed to degrade Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s “use of satellite television as a means to intimidate the Libyan people and incite acts of violence against them.”
“Striking specifically these critical satellite dishes will reduce the regime’s ability to oppress civilians while (preserving) television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict,” the alliance said in a statement posted on its website.
It said Mr. Qadhafi’s inflammatory TV broadcasts were intended to mobilize his supporters.
The attempt to silence the government’s TV broadcasts comes at a sensitive time for the rebels, who appeared to be in disarray after the mysterious death of their chief military commander. Abdel-Fattah Younis’ body was found on Thursday, dumped outside the rebels’ de facto capital of Benghazi, along with the bodies of two colonels who were his top aides. They had been shot and their bodies burned.
NATO too has been increasingly embarrassed by the failure of its bombing campaign, now in its fifth month, to dislodge Qadhafi’s regime. With the fasting month of Ramadan due to start in August, there is growing realization within the alliance that the costly campaign will drag on into the autumn and possibly longer.
NATO had originally hoped that a series of quick, sharp strikes would quickly force Mr. Qadhafi to give up power.
Eight NATO members have been participating in air campaign in Libya- the U.S., Britain, France, Belgium, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Italy. They have carried out a total of more than 6,500 strike sorties.
The United States was the first to limit its participation, deciding to only provide support to the European allies. Then Italy withdrew its only aircraft carrier and part of its air force contingent. Meanwhile, Norway has announced it will pull all of its F-16 warplanes out of the operation by Monday.