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NATO Airstrikes on Libya Intensify

Smoke billows behind the trees following an air raid on the area of Tajura, 30 km east of Tripoli, when NATO unleashed its heaviest blitz yet of the area in a bid to speed up the ouster of Libyan leader Moammer Gadhafi, May 24, 2011

NATO planes stepped up their bombing of Tripoli early Tuesday.

A series of powerful explosions shook the Libyan capital Tripoli overnight after NATO warplanes carried out close to 20 bombing raids. Witnesses say many of the raids appeared to be close to a military compound where Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may be hiding.

A NATO spokesman indicated that a vehicle storage facility next to the Bab al-Aziziya camp had been hit in the bombing raids.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, however, claimed that NATO warplanes missed their target, instead striking civilian houses nearby.

"Dozens of people have been injured and we have three martyrs, so far," he said. "The injured have been taken to two different hospitals. Some of them were treated and they have gone home already because of their light injuries. Some of them have bigger, more serious injuries."

Libyan government television showed three bodies at a hospital. Hospital workers claimed the victims were civilians who were killed by “NATO crusaders.”

Supporters of Mr. Gadhafi chanted slogans in favor of their leader. Some denounced NATO, the United States and President Barack Obama. One man claimed NATO warplanes bombed a mosque, showing shards of glass on top of a Quran.

Delegates from several African countries gathered in Tripoli to hear Libyan officials slam NATO’s intervention.

Both France and Britain, meanwhile, announced plans to step up attacks on Libya. "We're very much behind the intensification of the military campaign and … so is France," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The buildup comes after U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman told a news conference in Benghazi Monday that the U.S. is no longer talking to officials from Gadhafi’s government, and that President Obama has invited the rebels to open a representative office in Washington.