NATO attacks pro-Gaddafi forces near Sirte

A passenger plane destroyed by overnight shelling at Tripoli International Airport, August 26, 2011

From Heba Saleh, the Financial Times:  Nato has launched air strikes against targets in the region around Sirte, the hometown of Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi and a stronghold of loyalist forces fighting to prevent an advance of rebels who have over-run most of the country in recent days.

The military alliance said its aircraft had targeted 29 vehicles mounted with weapons near the city, which lies on the Mediterranean coast some 400km east of Tripoli.

British jets also hit a large bunker in Sirte with a salvo of air-to-surface missiles. Liam Fox, UK defence secretary, said Nato would continue to strike at pro-Gaddafi forces to destroy any remaining military capability.

Negotiations between the rebels and local leaders in Sirte have been taking place in recent days to facilitate the handover of the city without bloodshed. The Nato air strikes appear aimed at smoothing the way for the insurgent forces if the talks fail.

Rebel forces pushing towards Sirte have been targeted by Grad rockets fired by loyalists. Fighting between the two sides has also been reported in Bin Jawad, home to Libya’s biggest oil refinery. . . .

From Hadeel al-Shalchi and Karin Laub, the AP:  NATO also bombed surface-to-air missile facilities near Tripoli, a statement said. Officials say Gadhafi’s forces are trying to reconstitute their anti-aircraft weapons to pose a threat to humanitarian and civilian flights into Tripoli airport.

The airport was under rebel control but faced regular shelling from pro-Gadhafi forces to the east. At least three planes were burned in heavy shelling overnight, although the airport otherwise appeared largely intact, with a dozen other passenger planes on the tarmac.

"NATO is bombing those guys but they are still shelling from the east of the airport. They have totally destroyed three airplanes but hit others," Nasser Amer, a civil aviation official told the AP.   (photo: AP)

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