TRIPOLI – NATO aircraft launched more than a dozen strikes on the Libyan capital early Tuesday, and smoke could be seen rising from the area near Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s Bab-al-Azizia compound in Tripoli, CNN reported. The NATO attack, one of the heaviest against Tripoli since the NATO mission began just over two months ago, started at about 1 a.m. and lasted more than 20 minutes, with alliance jets circling overhead and Libyan loyalist forces responding with anti-aircraft fire.
Moussa Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman, said the attack targeted a guard compound for pro-Gadhafi military volunteers that had been emptied in anticipation. At least three people were killed and 150 wounded, Ibrahim said, calling the attack an escalation by NATO.
A spokesman for France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said France plans to add attack helicopters to the country’s arsenal in Libya, saying the aircraft would make “more precise” strikes possible. Media reports said Britain also plans to use attack helicopters.
In other developments, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that Russia recognizes Libya’s Transitional National Council as a legitimate negotiator on Libya’s future, according to RIA Novosti. Lavrov met with Abdel Rahman Shalgam, a representative of the Libyan opposition, on Monday. Western media reports claim the U.S. has suggested the Libyan rebels open a representative office in Washington.