NATO Strike In Libya May Have Killed Civilians

Originally published on June 20, 2011 1:40 pm
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NATO acknowledged last night that one of its airstrikes may have killed civilians in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The attack, which Libyan officials say killed nine people, prompted Moammar Gadhafi's government to call for a global jihad against the West. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Tripoli and brings us this story.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Government minders, who severely limit the movements of foreign journalists here, took them twice to the northern Tripoli neighborhood where a multi-story home lay in a pile of rubble. They also showed reporters four bodies, including that of two children, who the Libyans say were killed in the NATO airstrike. Libyan Foreign Minister Abdulati Alobidi offered this blistering assessment.

ABDULATI ALOBIDI: The barbarian murderous organization of NATO, supported and funded by criminal governments and criminal politicians, carried out an unjustified air-strike against the civilian neighborhood of Souk al Juma.

SARHADDI NELSON: He then called for a global jihad against the, quote, "oppressive criminal West" and vowed Libyans would never forgive or forget. Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim quickly sought to clarify that statement.

MOUSSA IBRAHIM: We will never carry out any terrorist attacks against European or Western cities or civilians. We will not target any capitals of the West. Our war is against the armies of the West.

SARHADDI NELSON: But he and the foreign minister say the NATO strikes only strengthen Libyan resolve to keep Gadhafi in power.

IBRAHIM: Even those with doubts in their hearts now amongst Libyans will have a clear view of the enemy and they know this is the same old story. The West attacking a Muslim country for oil, dominance and occupation. We have seen it in many other places. It's taking place now in Libya under the false justification of the protection of civilians.

SARHADDI NELSON: While NATO's stated goal for the Libyan mission is to safeguard the lives of civilians in the growing conflict, critics charge the main objective is to oust Gadhafi from power.

HUGH ROBERTS: One would hope that it would encourage policy makers in London, and Washington and Paris, and particularly in Washington, to reconsider the military campaign given that it is actually causing civilian casualties.

SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Tripoli.

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