Libya's capital shook with at least 15 massive explosions on Tuesday morning, as NATO launched its largest airstrike to date on the heart of Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
The strike came hours after French officials said on Monday that France and Britain planned to deploy attack helicopters to Libya. Such a move would allow greater accuracy in military action within cities but would probably put their troops at higher risk.
NATO planes and ships have been striking cities and military installations in Libya since mid-March. Allied military officials have spoken in recent weeks of the need for escalation to help protect Libyan civilians and have called for Gaddafi to step down.
Allied officials have expressed worry that the situation in Libya would become a stalemate, with Gaddafi remaining in power in the west, rebels controlling the east, and a contested area in between.
Libyan officials have said that NATO is picking sides in a civil war and complained that strikes on Gaddafi's Tripoli compound are attempts to assassinate the leader of a sovereign country.
The overnight bombings appeared concentrated on Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli. Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said NATO had targeted the headquarters of the military reserves, killing at least three and injuring dozens.
Still, he said, "we've never had such an injured number of people." Gaddafi, he said, was still alive.
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