SURMAN, Libya – Libya’s government said a NATO airstrike west of Tripoli early Monday destroyed a large family compound belonging to a close associate of Moammar Gadhafi, killing at least 15 people, including three children. It was the second claim of civilian deaths at a home in as many days.
The alliance said the strike Monday hit a “command and control” center.
Gadhafi’s regime has repeatedly accused NATO of targeting civilians in an attempt to rally support against international intervention into Libya’s civil war. The alliance insists it tries to avoid killing civilians.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said NATO bombs struck the compound belonging to Khoweildi al-Hamidi outside the city of Surman, some 40 miles west of Tripoli, around 4 a.m. local time Monday.
NATO initially said it had not hit any targets in the Surman area overnight. But the alliance later released a statement saying it conducted a “precision strike” near the town early Monday “on a legitimate military target – a command and control node which was directly involved in coordinating systematic attacks” on Libyan citizens.
The commander of NATO’s Libya operation, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, said the “strike will greatly degrade the Gadhafi regime’s forces’ ability to carry out their barbaric assaults on the Libyan people.”
“Wherever Gadhafi tries to hide his command and control centers, we will find them,” he said.
NATO officials have repeatedly said the alliance does not target individuals. It could not confirm reports of casualties in Monday’s strike but said it regrets any loss of civilian life.
Al-Hamidi is a longtime regime insider who took part in the 1969 coup that brought Gadhafi to power. He reportedly commanded a battalion that crushed rebels in the nearby western city of Zawiya in March, and his daughter is married to one of Gadhafi’s sons, Saadi.