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NATO to Investigate Libyan Claims of Civilian Deaths in Tripoli Air Strike

Elizabeth Arrott | Cairo June 19, 2011

NATO officials say they will investigate Libyan government claims that seven civilians were killed by an alliance strike in Tripoli.

The government showed a heavily damaged house in Souq al Juma, a residential neighborhood of the capital.

Two bodies were seen being removed from the rubble. The bodies of three other people, including two children, were displayed at a Tripoli hospital. Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim spoke to foreign journalists taken to the sites.

"Basically, this is another night of murder and terror and horror in Tripoli caused by NATO," Ibrahim. "You have seen with your own eyes the terrible disaster that is taking place every day in Tripoli."

NATO acknowledges it carried out airstrikes overnight in the capital, as part of a U.N. mandate to establish a no-fly zone to protect civilians. But the alliance says it only strikes military infrastructure in the capital.

An official adds that without personnel at the scene, the account is difficult to verify. Previous Libyan government accounts of civilian casualties have also been hard to confirm, with little hard evidence to back up the accusations.

Journalists were recently taken to see a young girl said to have been wounded in a NATO strike, but a medic at the hospital passed a note to one of the reporters saying the girl had been hurt in a car accident.

But NATO strikes have gone awry before. On Saturday, it acknowledged that its forces struck a column of rebel vehicles near Brega, in the east of the country, one of three battlefronts between the government and the opposition.

The Thursday attack was the third time NATO mistakenly struck rebel positions. NATO has stepped up daytime attacks on the capital as the operation enters its fourth month.

After the latest strikes, Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim accused the alliance of deliberately targeting civilians, a claim the government has made before. NATO officials have called those charges "outrageous".

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