ROME (Reuters) - At least 40 civilians have been killed in air strikes by Western forces on Tripoli, the top Vatican official in the Libyan capital told a Catholic news agency on Thursday, quoting witnesses.
"The so-called humanitarian raids have killed dozens of civilian victims in some neighborhoods of Tripoli," said Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli.
"I have collected several witness accounts from reliable people. In particular, in the Buslim neighborhood, due to the bombardments, a civilian building collapsed, causing the death of 40 people," he told Fides, the news agency of the Vatican missionary arm.
Libyan officials have taken foreign reporters to the sites of what they say were the aftermath of Western air strikes on Tripoli but evidence of civilian casualties has been inconclusive.
Western powers say they have no confirmed evidence of civilian casualties from air strikes, which they have carried out under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians caught in conflict between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces and rebels.
"It's true that the bombardments seem pretty much on target, but it is also true that when they hit military targets, which are in the middle of civilian neighborhoods, the population is also involved," Martinelli said.
"Yesterday I said that bombardments had hit, albeit indirectly, some hospitals. To be precise, one of these hospitals is in Mizda," he said, mentioning a town about 145 km (90 miles) southwest of the capital.
Martinelli said living conditions in the Libyan capital were getting more difficult by the day, while on the ground a military stalemate appeared to be taking hold.
"That is why I say that a diplomatic solution is the principal way to put an end to the spilling of blood among Libyans, offering Gaddafi a dignified exit," he said.
(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Mark Heinrich)