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Our raid on Tripoli may have killed civilians, says NATO

NATO says one of its airstrikes in the Libyan capital of Tripoli went astray and may have killed civilians.

The military alliance said the errant strike early yesterday may have been due to "a weapons system failure".

Libyan officials say nine civilians were killed, including two children. Officials took reporters to the building that was hit, where children's toys, teacups and dust-covered mattresses could be seen amid the rubble.

A NATO commander said it "regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes".

Foreign journalists were taken by Muammar Gaddafi's regime to see the wreckage of a three-storey building where officials said civilians were "murdered".

The concrete rubble was strewn with clothes and possessions, including toys. People claiming to be neighbours angrily condemned the Western alliance.

Nine people, including a mother and father and at least two toddlers, died in the bombing, government officials said.

Journalists saw the body of a woman being removed from the rubble yesterday and were afterwards taken to see the bodies of casualties at a hospital.

NATO said it was investigating the Libyan claims. A spokesman said aircraft had been attacking a "legitimate military target" in the city.

"NATO deeply regrets any civilian loss of life during this operation and would be very sorry if the review of this incident concluded it to be a NATO weapon," he added.


If confirmed as a NATO bomb, the deaths would mark the first real mistake in what appears to have been an extraordinarily accurate bombing campaign that has lasted more than three months.

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Although the Libyan authorities claim 800 civilians have been killed by "crusader bombs", they have been able to show little evidence to back up that claim. The Libyan government, however, still pounced on the opportunity to fuel its propaganda war.

"This is another night of murder, terror and horror in Tripoli caused by NATO," said Musa Ibrahim, a government spokesman.

He accused NATO of "deliberately targeting civilians", insisting there were no military targets anywhere near the residential street that was hit. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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