In the early morning hours, Tripoli shook with at least 15 massive explosions as NATO launched its largest airstrikes to date against the Gaddafi regime. The overnight bombings also appeared concentrated on the Libyan leader’s compound. NATO said in a statement that it had struck a vehicle storage facility adjacent to the compound.
“This facility is known to have been active . . . resupplying the regime forces that have been conducting attacks against innocent civilians,” NATO said.
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said NATO had targeted the headquarters of the military reserves, killing at least three people and injuring dozens. He said the casualties would have been higher except that the government had emptied the headquarters, expecting that it would be hit. Still, he said, “we’ve never had such an injured number of people.”
Gaddafi was still alive, Ibrahim said.
Flashes lighted up the Tripoli sky near the compound, followed by explosions and shock waves that shook windows at a hotel a mile away. Antiaircraft gunfire punctuated the quiet between the strikes, and an acrid smell filled the air.
At Tripoli Central Hospital, where government minders took journalists shortly after the blasts, about a dozen injured people moved through a ward, many appearing to have light or moderate injuries to their limbs. All were men wearing civilian clothing. Most appeared to be in their 20s or 30s.
In another room were three dead men covered in dust. Each man’s head was partially blown away. Their bodies, though cut and bruised, were not damaged nearly as much.
In Benghazi, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman stopped short of formally recognizing the rebel Transitional National Council as Libya’s governing body. Rebel officials have sought such recognition for weeks now, and other countries — notably France — have granted it.
But Feltman said such recognition was beside the point and emphasized that the United States was firmly committed to working with the rebels. He said he delivered to the rebel leaders an oral message from President Obama as well as a formal invitation to open the office, which Feltman said the rebel leaders had accepted.
“The point is Gaddafi and Tripoli are increasingly isolated diplomatically,” Feltman said. “In attacking, threatening and brutally suppressing the Libyan people, Colonel Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to rule. He can’t regain control of Libya. He must step down immediately, thereby allowing the Libyan people to determine their own future.”