NATO hits Gaddafi ammunition stockpiles, armoured vehicles
NATO on Saturday said it had made progress in its fight to protect Libyan civilians from leader Moamer Gaddafi's forces, carrying out airstrikes on ammunition stockpiles used in the siege on the western city of Misurata, dpa reported.
"In addition to hitting their supplies, our aircraft successfully destroyed a significant percentage of the Libyan government's armoured forces," Lieutenant General Charlie Bouchard, who commands NATO operations in Libya, said in a statement.
"By eliminating these heavy weapons, we are reducing the Gaddafi regime's ability to attack the local population," he added.
Gaddafi's troops and the NATO-backed rebels have been clashing in Misurata for more than a month, with concern mounting about the humanitarian situation in the city.
Bouchard said NATO pilots had spotted regime troops readying armoured vehicles for transport during one of their sorties - more than 1,400 of which have been conducted since NATO took over command of Libya operations on March 27.
After bombing a nearby tank to make the soldiers flee, the pilots destroyed the other vehicles "with minimal loss of life," according to Bouchard.
"Regime forces should understand that if they continue to operate these vehicles and follow orders to attack their own people, they will be targeted," he added. "We will not always be able to limit loss of life."
The military alliance had faced pressure in recent days over two incidents in which airstrikes mistakenly killed rebels, most recently on Thursday outside the key oil port of Brega.
The incident had led NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to express regret over the deaths, while one of the Libya operation's commanders remained unapologetic.
Bouchard on Saturday also reiterated NATO accusations that Gaddafi troops are using civilians as "human shields."
Troops have "been observed hiding behind women and children," he said. "This type of behaviour violates the principles of international law and will not be tolerated."