No apology, but NATO statement of regret after airstrike hits rebels


LONDON and TRIPOLI, Libya — NATO Rear Adm. Russell Harding, the deputy commander of the alliance’s operation in Libya,
said Friday that NATO warplanes may indeed have hit rebel forces near
the town of Brega on Thursday but offered no apology for what was
apparently a deadly mistake.

The secretary-general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has issued a statement of regret over the rebel deaths apparently caused by the NATO airstrikes outside Brega.

“This is a very unfortunate incident. I strongly
regret the loss of life,” Fogh Rasmussen said. “I can assure you that
we do our utmost to avoid civilian casualties.”

Meanwhile, the first-ever U.N. ship containing tons
of humanitarian supplies brought relief to the besieged city of
Misurata. The ship, chartered by the World Food Program, included food
and medical supplies for the tens of thousands of civilians trapped by
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s armed forces inside the rebel-held city.

A NATO-led alliance that includes the U.S. is
leading a battle to prevent Gadhafi’s forces from hurting civilians in
several parts of the country, especially the rebel-controlled east,
where forces loyal and opposed to the longtime ruler of Libya have been locked in a battlefield stalemate.

NATO appeared to concede that for the second time in
less than a week its actions may have resulted in the deaths of rebel

“It would appear that two of our strikes yesterday
(Thursday) may have resulted in the deaths of a number of (Transitional
National Council) forces,” Harding said from Naples, Italy.
He said that the seesaw fighting on the road to Ajdabiya, northeast of
Brega, had made the situation extremely confusing and hard to track.

“The situation in the area is still very fluid, with
tanks and other vehicles moving in different directions, making it very
difficult to distinguish who may be operating them. In addition, until
this time we had not seen the TNC operating tanks,” the British officer

He added that it was not NATO’s responsibility to
try to improve lines of communication with the rebels in order to avoid
more mistaken airstrikes.

“It is not for us, trying to protect civilians of
whatever persuasion, to improve communications with those rebel
forces,” he said.

World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran described the arrival of the relief ship in Misurata as “a breakthrough for the U.N. humanitarian operation in Libya.” He said it “allows us to reach tens of thousands of people who are caught in one of the fiercest areas of conflict.”

A former Libyan energy minister who escaped the city
on a fishing boat told news outlets that Kadafi’s armed forces were
subjecting civilians in Misurata to constant bombardment, shooting
people at random and targeting their access to water supplies.

Omar Fathi bin Shatwan and his family arrived in the island nation of Malta days ago after escaping from Misurata, where he had been for nearly six weeks.

“They bombarded food stores, supermarkets, water
supplies and the harbor,” he was quoted as saying. “It has been like
this for so long that it has become natural for people. It is scary,
but the fear becomes normal after a while.”

He also said that he saw no future for Gadhafi or his sons in a future Libya. He claimed that more officials from the Gadhafi regime were itching to defect as foreign minister Musa Kusa did, but were afraid to do so.

He urged NATO to quickly end the conflict by
targeting all of Gadhafi’s military equipment. “NATO is not doing the
job well,” he said.


(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Previous articleUrinary Tract Remedies to the Rescue
Next articleRalphie’s Independence Day Blast looking for bands