• 08:40
  • Sunday ,22 May 2011

Libya accuses NATO of causing humanitarian crisis


International News


Sunday ,22 May 2011

Libya accuses NATO of causing humanitarian crisis

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Libya on Saturday accused NATO of causing a humanitarian crisis after airstrikes targeted the government-controlled port in Tripoli, saying the attacks have limited movement of supply ships in and out of the country.

The claim by Moammar Gadhafi's government comes after NATO said it struck Libyan warships that had been targeting its ships, disrupting the flow of humanitarian aid.

NATO warplanes have been pounding military targets since March as Libyan forces try to quash a nearly three-month revolt against Gadhafi's nearly 42 years of rule.

Coalition forces began the strikes after the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution to protect civilians by any means necessary.

The NATO airstrikes against the Tripoli port as well as ports in Al-Khums and Sirte violated the U.N. resolution, said Amran al-Forjani, Libya's chief coastguard commandant. He called the operation a "crazy attack."

NATO targeted the ships Thursday in Tripoli, Al-Khums and Sirte after it was apparent that Gadhafi forces were increasingly using naval vessels to launch attacks on civilians, said Mike Bracken, NATO's military spokesman.

Gadhafi was indiscriminately mining waters in Misrata and hampering the flow of humanitarian aid, Bracken said.

"He was using maritime forces to lay mines. These were legal targets," Bracken said at a briefing in Brussels, Belgium.

NATO and human rights groups said Libyan forces have targeted aid ships coming in and out of Misrata, where a bloody see-saw battle has raged between Gadhafi forces and the rebels.

Bracken did not say whether crew members were aboard ships hit by NATO.

But the coastguard commandant denied that his vessels were used to attack Misrata or any other Libyan city.

A Libyan official who led CNN personnel on a tour of the area Friday said the commercial port, not the nearby military port, was hit. From the distance at which CNN was allowed to view the area, it was not clear what sort of vessels were hit.

Six rockets struck in three strikes that hit five coast guard boats and one navy vessel in dock for maintenance, said Mohammed Ahmed Rashed, the port general manager.

The port remained operational, according to officials, but the strikes would impact the limited movement of supply ships.

Libyan officials said the port is the main food and fuel supply line, and they expect the strikes to deter freight ships from coming because of security concerns and to increase the insurance on ships and goods.

Meanwhile, forces loyal to Gadhafi have unleashed their biggest attack yet against a rebel stronghold in the mountains of western Libya, one of the Libyan leader's former generals said.

As of Friday night, one rebel was dead and three were wounded, one of them critically, the former commander said. He now commands rebels in Zintan, using the name Hajj Usama.

The attack began Thursday when about 150 of Gadhafi's infantry troops began firing on three fronts near Zintan, he said.

In response, Usama said he dispatched hundreds of fighters to cut off Gadhafi's advance.

Zintan lies about 90 miles southwest of the capital, Tripoli.