Libya condemned as ‘cowardly’ a series of NATO air strikes targeting Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi’s Bab al-Azizia compound in Tripoli early yesterday.
Gadaffi’s whereabouts at the time of the attack are unclear.
The Libyan government said between two and four large missiles or bombs exploded in the compound.
The buildings, a library and office where Gadaffi holds meetings, were badly damaged with the roof of one of the structures caved in.
Just two weeks ago, Gadaffi had received an African Union delegation led by South African President Jacob Zuma in the ceremonial building.
Loud explosions were also heard elsewhere in the capital.
A Libyan government official said that 45 people had been wounded in the bombing, 15 of them seriously, adding: ‘It was an attempt to assassinate Colonel Gadaffi.’
Gadaffi’s son, Saif al-Islam said: ‘This cowardly attack on Muammar Gadaffi’s office may frighten or terrorise children but we will not abandon the battle and we are not afraid.’
He defiantly asserted that that NATO’s war on Libya was ‘lost in advance’.
Heavy explosions shook the centre of Tripoli in the early hours of Monday. Smoke was seen rising from the compound at around 3am local time, watched by dozens of people shouting pro-Gadaffi slogans.
Libyan state TV broadcasts were briefly cut off after the raid. It said military and civilian casualties resulted from the ‘crusaders’ air strikes’ on the Bab al-Azizia compound.
NATO issued a statement yesterday saying 1,550 strike sorties have been conducted against Libya.
Meanwhile, fighting continued in the western port town of Misrata.
Last week, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Khaim said the Libyan army was withdrawing from Misrata and that tribal leaders would deal with the counter-revolutionaries.
After reports of more deaths in Misrata, a Libyan government spokesman explained on Sunday that the army came under rebel attack as it withdrew from the town, and the army simply fought back as it continued withdrawing.
Spokesman Musa Ibrahim said: ‘Our army will always attack back if it is attacked. We cannot just ask them to die and not fight back.’
Ibrahim said tribal chiefs were moving to Misrata’s outskirts and negotiating peace with the rebels and city inhabitants, but an opposition leader denied those claims.
The rebels’ so-called Transitional National Council, received a pledge from Kuwait on Sunday for about $180m.
Ibrahim responded: ‘We know that some countries are not interested in Libyan peace, democracy, and the future of this country.
‘Why is it that some governments jump on the opportunity to make the Libyan crisis even worse . . . instead of helping all parties establish peace?’ he asked.
In Washington, three members of the US Senate Armed Services Committee said that more should be done to drive Gadaffi out of power.
Gadaffi ‘needs to wake up every day wondering, “Will this be my last?” ’ Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican on the committee, said.