NATO: aircraft struck pro-Gaddafi vehicles near Sirte

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2011 9:24 AM
NATO: aircraft struck pro-Gaddafi vehicles near Sirte

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO said its aircraft attacked two military vehicles near Muammar Gaddafi's last holdout of Sirte on Thursday, but that it could not confirm reports these had been carrying Gaddafi.

"At approximately 0830 local time (2:30 a.m. EDT) today, NATO aircraft struck two pro-Gaddafi forces military vehicles which were part of a larger group moving in the vicinity of Sirte," NATO military spokesman Colonel Roland Lavoie said. "These armed vehicles were conducting military operations and presented a clear threat to civilians."

Another NATO official said the alliance had not been able to confirm whether the air strike hit a convoy that Gaddafi was reported to have been in.

Earlier, a military official of Libya's ruling National Transitional Council, Abdel Majid Mlegta, told Reuters that Gaddafi had been captured and wounded in both legs at dawn on Thursday as he tried to flee in a convoy that NATO warplanes attacked.

A senior NTC military official later said Gaddafi died of wounds suffered in his capture.

NATO said on Thursday it was seeking confirmation from the NTC of reports that Gaddafi had been captured or killed in Libya, but said this could take some time. NATO says it does not target individuals unless they are a threat to civilians.

"We haven't been able to confirm these reports," a different NATO official said. "The situation is just too fluid. Events like this on the ground -- only the NTC would be able to confirm. If it is true, then this is truly a historic day for the people of Libya."

NATO took over a U.N.-mandated military operation to protect civilians on March 31, since when it has been conducting air strikes and enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya, as well as enforcing an arms embargo through naval patrols.

The situation in Gaddafi's last holdout in Sirte would be a big factor in deciding when to end the mission, NATO officials said this week. They said the decision would be based on an assessment of the ability of the NTC to maintain security.

NATO ambassadors meeting on Wednesday put off a decision because of caution by countries such as Britain and France, which have been at the forefront of the intervention.

(Reporting By David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sebastian Moffett and Mark Heinrich)