Apparent NATO airstrike hits near Gadhafi complex
A rebel forces is seen on the front line as they repel government troops in Dafniya, Libya, Tuesday June 14, 2011. (AP / Hassan Ammar)
Published Tuesday, June 14, 2011 9:05AM EDT
TRIPOLI, Libya - An apparent NATO airstrike hit an area near Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound in the capital again Tuesday, as military leaders voiced concerns about sustaining the operations if the alliance mission drags on.
A column of gray smoke could be seen rising from the area around Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound shortly before dawn Tuesday. The concussion from the blast was felt at a hotel where journalists stay in the capital.
It was not clear what was targeted, and Libyan officials didn't immediately comment.
NATO warplanes have repeatedly struck in and around the compound, where pro-government supporters gather each night for rallies in support of the Libyan leader. The latest bombing comes hours after a number of foreign anti-war activists made an appearance there.
But there are signs the pace of operations has put a strain on NATO.
In London, the head of the Royal Navy warned that the British fleet -- a key contributor to the Libya mission -- will be unable to maintain the pace of operations if the mission drags on until the end of the year.
Adm. Mark Stanhope told reporters Monday he was comfortable with NATO's decision to extend the Libya operation to the end of September, but said that beyond that the government would need to make "challenging decisions."
"If we do it longer than six months we will have to reprioritize forces," he said.
Elsewhere, a senior NATO official said coalition resources would become "critical" if intervention in Libya continues.
"If additional resources are needed, this of course will need a political decision," said the official, Gen. Stephane Abrial, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.
U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates last week publicly rebuked the United States' European allies and said NATO's operations in Libya have exposed the alliance's shortcomings. France and Britain have carried most of the load since NATO began the Libya mission March 31.
In western Libya, Gadhafi's troops were bombarding opposition forces controlling a key border crossing with Tunisia, according to Omar Hussein, a spokesman for rebels in the western Nafusa mountains.
He said government forces were targeting rebels holding the road that leads toward the Dehiba border crossing. Dehiba is a key supply point for the rebels who wrested control of a string of Nafusa mountain towns from Gadhafi's forces earlier this month.
NATO, meanwhile, reported it had carried out 62 airstrikes on Libya Monday, hitting military targets in Tripoli and four other cities in Gadhafi controlled territory. The alliance has considerably stepped up the pace of air attacks over tjhe past several days.