Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – NATO warplanes bombed a building within Colonel Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli early yesterday morning, with Libyan officials describing this attack as an assassination attempt. The Gaddafi regime yesterday reiterated its cohesion and commitment, announcing that the raid had not frightened them and would not force them to surrender. According to official Libyan sources, the NATO air raid resulted in dozens of injuries and the interruption of the broadcast of three Libyan television channels that were broadcasting from near the site of the attack.
The Libyan authorities escorted foreign journalist to the site of the attack, claiming that this NATO air raid was an assassination attempt against Gaddafi, and revealing that the targeted building was used for ministerial and other meetings. A Libyan official speaking to journalists anonymously refused to clarify whether Gaddafi was in the building at the time of the attack, adding that 45 people had been injured in this air raid, including 15 serious cases. She added that many people were still unaccounted for in the wake of this attack.
This is not the first time that NATO has targeted the Bab al-Aziziyah compound; however it seems that the pace of the air raids against Tripoli has been stepped up over the past days. NATO previously targeted a fortified underground bunker within the Bab al-Aziziyah camp; although the Gaddafi regime claimed that this was nothing more than a “car park.”
A Libyan official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from Tripoli, said that “Gaddafi was not present in the building that was targeted by NATO warplanes” although he refused to divulge Colonel Gaddafi’s location during this air raid. It is believed that, for the most part, Gaddafi and his senior aides stay within fortified underground bunkers beneath the Bab al-Aziziyah compound for their own safety.
During the trip organized by the Libyan government for foreign journalists to view the site of the attack, firefighters were still fighting to extinguish the fires which had spread from the destroyed building. One eye-witness told Asharq Al-Awsat that the firefighters had inspected the damaged building and declared it unstable.
Libyan spokesman Musa Ibrahim told journalists “how is this act of terrorism [referring to the NATO air raid] protecting civilians in Libya?” He added “this is a cowardly attempt to pursue one person.”
During the tour of the site of the attack, Ibrahim stressed to journalists that Gaddafi was not in hiding, but was in a safe place. He added “he [Gaddafi] is well, he is healthy, he is in high spirits.”
A Libyan military source also revealed that civilian and military sites throughout Tripoli had been subject to what he described as “colonialist – Crusader aggression.” He said that these air raids had resulted in casualties and material damage, but refused to elaborate on the nature of these losses.
The source added that the attacks interrupted the broadcast of a number of Libyan television and radio stations for a number of minutes, including three pro-Gaddafi television channels, namely the al-Libiyah TV channel, the al-Jamahiriyah TV channel, and the al-Shababiyah TV channel.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi tried to play down the implications of this attack, telling Libyan State TV that “this cowardly attack might deceive small children, but we will not surrender, and we will not raise the white flag [of surrender].” He added “to the [foreign] agents and spies and traitors who give NATO false tips saying, strike at Gaddafi’s home and he will surrender, you are dreaming!”
Gaddafi’s second eldest son also praised the Libyan people who flocked to the site of the attack and chanted their support for Colonel Gaddafi and the Gaddafi regime. He stressed that the Gaddafi regime would not surrender, and condemned the alleged spies who had provided NATO with information that led to the attack.
Washington stressed that NATO attacks on the Bab al-Aziziyah compound did not represent an assassination attempt against Colonel Gaddafi. White House spokesman Jay Carney told the press on Monday that “it is certainly not the policy of the coalition, or this administration, to decapitate, or to effect regime change in Libya by force.”