A cruise missile hit a building inside Muammar Gaddafi’s residential compound as Western forces launched a second wave of air strikes against Libya on Monday. The embattled Libyan leader’s spokesperson said the attack was an attempt to kill Gaddafi, an accusation to which the West gave a confused reply.
There was confusion about the war elsewhere as well. The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, seemed to go back on his organisation's earlier support for the air strikes — but was later said to have been misquoted. France fended off attempts by other European countries to bring the strikes under Nato control.Libyan rebels struggled to capitalise on the retreat of the pro-Gaddafi army. An early attempt to recapture the eastern town of Ajdabiyah was repulsed. The UN Security Council was scheduled to hold consultations on Monday.
The building destroyed inside Gaddafi's compound was an administrative centre, said Western sources.
The Libyan government denounced the attack as "barbaric." The UK armed forces head, General Sir David Richards, insisted Gaddafi was not one of the targets, citing the UNSC resolution that authorised the no-fly zone. This seemed to contradict UK foreign secretary William Hague, who declined to rule out strikes that would target Gaddafi.
France, which is set to take over command of the military operation from the US, expressed satisfaction at the success of the military action. A senior French official ruled out cessation of the operations despite increasing international criticism by countries including India, China and Russia.
Washington preferred to stress command would be handed to European states in a few days and even admitted that Libya could see a "stalemate".
Arab countries such as the UAE and Qatar said they continued to support the action. And there was still evidence of cautious support in the Arab Street, especially in countries like Egypt that were undergoing or had undergone a "jasmine revolution". But most analysts warned that this could change if there was evidence of widespread civilian casualties.
The Western forces strongly denied Libyan claims of heavy loss of civilian life.
There were unconfirmed reports that one of Gaddafi's sons had been killed when a Libyan Air Force pilot had crashed his plane into his residence.