TRIPOLI, Libya — The Libyan government said civilians were killed Sunday in a NATO airstrike that struck a residential neighborhood in Tripoli, adding to charges that the alliance is hitting nonmilitary targets.
Journalists based in the Libyan capital were taken by government officials to a neighborhood where it says the strike occurred in the early hours of Sunday. They were shown a destroyed building as rescue efforts were underway.
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the damage was caused by NATO rockets and bombs. He wasn’t immediately able to provide the number of casualties, but said there were no military facilities anywhere near the damaged building.
“This is targeting civilian areas of Tripoli,” he said. “We know that NATO is accelerating its operations against us.”
Journalists taken to a hospital after seeing the damaged building were shown at least four people said to be killed in the strike, including two young children.
It was not possible to independently verify the government’s account of what happened.
Officials increasingly have sought to highlight what they say are attacks on civilian targets by NATO warplanes by taking journalists to visit alleged bombing sites. Foreign journalists in Tripoli are not allowed to travel and report freely and are almost always shadowed by government minders.
On Friday, Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi accused NATO of a “new level of aggression” in recent days, and claimed that the military alliance intentionally targeted civilian buildings, including a hotel and a university. He has called on the United Nations to take action to stop NATO’s daily bombing runs.
The most recent figures from Libya’s Health Ministry show 856 civilians have been killed in NATO airstrikes since they began in March. The figure could not be independently verified, and previous government-announced tolls from individual strikes have proven to be exaggerated.
NATO, which has a mandate to protect Libyan civilians, has been ramping up the pressure on Gadhafi’s regime as a four-month uprising devolved into a civil war. It rejects allegations it targets civilians.
“We are conducting operations with utmost care and precision to avoid civilian casualties. Civilian casualties figures mentioned by the Libyan regime are pure propaganda,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said Saturday.
Melvin reported from Brussels. Associated Press writers Hadeel al-Shalchi in Dafniya, Libya, and Sarah El Deeb in Cairo contributed to this report.