NATO strike mistakenly kills 12 Libyan rebels


Los Angeles Times

BENGHAZI, Libya

A NATO airstrike in the besieged rebel-held city of Misrata mistakenly killed 12 Libyan rebels, an official with the transitional government confirmed Thursday, while new fighting was reported on Libya’s western border with Tunisia.

The strike Wednesday was at least the third in which rebels were killed since NATO fighter jets began pounding forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi more than five weeks ago in a mission to protect Libyan civilians.

Leaders of the anti- Gadhafi forces have called the incidents unfortunate accidents in a worthy cause, reflecting wide support in rebel ranks for the NATO strikes.

Nonetheless, both NATO and the rebels have said additional precautions — such as marking rebel vehicles and reporting precise positions to NATO — have been employed to avoid more rebel deaths.

“It is regrettable, but we know the people of Misrata understand,” said Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a press liaison with the transitional council who confirmed the rebel deaths. “We know NATO didn’t do this on purpose.”

There was no immediate response from NATO.

NATO’s bombing is widely considered to have prevented Gadhafi forces from retaking rebel-held territory, including the eastern city of Benghazi, de facto capital of the opposition. Rebel leaders have urged their international allies to step up the air campaign against the dictator’s regime.

Two previous inadvertent NATO strikes on anti-Gadhafi forces killed at least 18 rebels and injured many more.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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