News / Africa

Libyan Opposition Accuses NATO of Failing to Protect Civilians

Head of the rebel forces, Abdel Fattah Younes attends a news conference in Benghazi, April 6, 2011
Head of the rebel forces, Abdel Fattah Younes attends a news conference in Benghazi, April 6, 2011
Scott Bobb

The head of the armed forces of Libya’s eastern-based opposition has sharply criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, saying it is failing to protect civilians from artillery attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. General Abdul Fattah Younes made the charge as his forces were forced to withdraw once again from the oil-town of Brega 200 kilometers west of Benghazi.

Younes said NATO was causing hundreds of civilian deaths in Libya’s third largest city, Misrata, 200 kilometers east of Tripoli.

He said NATO so far has disappointed the opposition forces. They have tried to provide NATO with targets to bomb but it takes the organization eight hours to respond.

Younes said NATO does not want to harm civilians but added that because of its lack of action hundreds of civilians were dying each day.

Relief workers say more than 200 people have died in Misrata since the uprising began seven weeks ago against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Younes said the opposition was considering contacting the United Nations Security Council about what he called the genocide being carried out in Misrata by pro-Gadhafi forces.

The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe said Wednesday the situation in Misrata could not continue and he would contact the head of NATO.

A NATO spokesman said the air strikes were continuing and Misrata was the organization’s number one priority. He said nearly one-third of the Libyan government’s military capacity had been disabled since the strikes began.

NATO has been overseeing a no-fly zone and attacking government tanks and heavy artillery under a U.N. resolution passed three weeks ago. An international coalition of Arab and Western governments is providing the planes and logistical support for the mission.

General Younes also confirmed reports that oil fields in Sarir, 600 kilometers south of Benghazi, had been bombed by pro-Gadhafi forces. But he said damage so far had been slight and the authorities were trying to repair them.

Oil fields in Sarir and nearby Mislah are supplying most of the crude oil to be exported this week via the rebel-held port of Tobruk.

A tanker docked at Tobruk Tuesday to load some 100,000 barrels of the opposition’s first Libyan oil exports.

A spokesman for the opposition’s Transition Council announced Tuesday that a delegation from the European Union had visited Benghazi to meet with opposition leaders.

He a special envoy of the U.S. government had also visited in what was seen as a contact and fact-finding mission.

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