Nato strikes hit Libyan warships

The authorities in Tripoli slammed the US president’s comments as “delusional”,  while strongly denying reports that Gadhafi’s wife and daughter have fled to Tunisia and that Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem has defected.

“Nato and coalition air assets continued their precision air strikes against pro-Gadhafi regime forces overnight with a coordinated strike against pro-Gadhafi forces in the ports of Tripoli, Al-Khums and Sirte,” the Western alliance said.

“Overnight, Nato aircraft hit pro-Gadhafi warships, striking eight vessels,” it added.

“Given the escalating use of naval assets, Nato had no choice but to take decisive action to protect the civilian population of Libya and Nato forces at sea,” said Rear Admiral Russell Harding, deputy head of the Nato-led air war.

Fresh explosions were heard in the Libyan capital early Friday, hours after the air strikes targeted the city’s port, with a ship still ablaze from the raid. Harding insisted that all of the targets hit were military but Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim accused the Western alliance of seeking to scare international shipping firms into steering clear of government-held ports.

“Whatever the ship that has been hit, it is clearly a message sent by Nato to the international maritime companies not to send any more vessels to Libya,” Ibrahim told reporters in Tripoli.

British aircraft targeted Al-Khums, the nearest naval base under the control of Gadhafi forces to the rebel-held city of Misrata, Britain’s defence staff spokesman Major General John Lorimer said.

“As well as hitting two corvettes in the harbour, the Royal Air Force Tornados successfully targeted a facility in the dockyard constructing fast inflatable boats, which Libyan forces have used several times in their efforts to mine Misrata and attack vessels in the area," Lorimer said.

“The destruction last night of the facility and a significant stockpile of the boats will reduce the regime’s ability to sustain such tactics,” he added.

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