By: Anne Barker
April 13, 2011
France and the UK are calling on NATO to step up its bombing efforts in Libya, despite reports of civilian deaths from an allied airstrike.
NATO warplanes in Libya reportedly killed several civilians – including women and children – in a bombing south-west of the capital Tripoli.NATO planes bombed the outskirts of the city of Kikla, 100 kilometres from Tripoli.
Libyan state television says the bomb struck an area where police were controlling traffic, and says police and civilians – men, women and children – were killed, although the report was not immediately verified independently.
“The entrance to Kikla was targeted by a raid by colonialist aggressors who entered an area where the police control traffic and monitor motorists,” the television said, adding that the raids were carried out on Monday.
Several rebel-held towns in the mountains outside Tripoli have recently come under attack by Moamer Gaddafi’s forces.
Despite the deaths, France and Britain say NATO must do more to destroy Mr Gaddafi’s heavy weaponry, and says so far NATO’s efforts are not enough.
NATO took over air operations from the three nations on March 31 but heavy government bombardment of the besieged western city of Misrata has continued unabated with hundreds of civilians reported killed.
The criticism by London and Paris followed new shelling of Misrata on Monday and the collapse of an African Union peace initiative. Echoing rebel complaints, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told France Info radio, “It’s not enough.”
Mr Juppe said NATO must stop Mr Gaddafi shelling civilians and take out heavy weapons bombarding Misrata. In a barbed reference to the alliance command of the operation, Mr Juppe added: “NATO must play its role fully. It wanted to take the lead in operations, we accepted that.”
British foreign secretary William Hague also said NATO must intensify attacks, calling on other alliance countries to match London’s supply of extra ground attack aircraft in Libya.
NATO, is operating under a UN mandate to protect civilians, stepped up air strikes around Misrata and the eastern battlefront city of Ajdabiyah at the weekend. It rejected the criticism.
“NATO is conducting its military operations in Libya with vigour within the current mandate. The pace of the operations is determined by the need to protect the population,” it said in a statement.