By Simon Denyer,
TRIPOLI, Libya — NATO sent at least two large guided bombs into the sprawling office, residential and military complex where Moammar Gaddafi lives in the heart of Tripoli early Monday, destroying offices and a library used by the Libyan leader, but apparently causing no significant injuries.
In a statement, the alliance described the attack as “precision strike” on a communications headquarters used by the regime to attack civilians. Libyan officials said it was an attempt to assassinate their leader.
The NATO attack was the second against the sprawling Bab al-Aziziyah complex since Western powers began a campaign of airstrikes last month. It came hours after Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said NATO should “cut the head of the snake off” and that Gaddafi and his entourage should wake up every day “wondering ‘will this be my last?’ ”
Part residence for Gaddafi, part government offices and part military base, the complex is also the scene of nightly celebrations by hundreds of civilians offering themselves as human shields to protect Gaddafi against NATO. Officials at the scene said no one had been badly hurt, although state television later reported that 45 people had been injured.
A senior Libyan official said the attack appeared to have targeted the Libyan leader. “It was very close,” he said, adding that the conflict was “getting worse and worse.”
Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, said the Libyan government would not be cowed.
“The bombing which targeted Moammar Gaddafi's office today . . . will only scare children. It's impossible that it will make us afraid or give up or raise the white flag,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run JANA news agency.
“You, NATO, are waging a losing battle because you are backed by traitors and spies,” he said. “History has proved that no state can rely on them to win.”
Reporters in Tripoli first heard two huge explosions and saw a red flash from the direction of Gaddafi’s compound. There was also a third, smaller explosion, which officials said was an attack on a state television broadcasting facility in Tripoli, after which the signal from all three channels went down briefly.
Later, reporters were taken to see the scene of the main attack and shown a destroyed building that officials said contained offices and a library used by Gaddafi. Its roof was caved in, many of its walls had collapsed, and shattered masonry, twisted metal and other debris was strewn over a large area.
A fire engine trained water on part of the building, while civilian supporters of the regime, let in with members of the media, clambered on the rubble, chanted pro-Gaddafi slogans and waved the green flag of the government as thick cement dust swirled through the air.
An adjacent building, where Gaddafi met South African President Jacob Zuma and a delegation of four other African presidents looking to broker a peace deal earlier this month, was also badly damaged, with the wreckage of chandeliers, furniture and picture frames spread amid the rubble.