Middle East

U.K. bombs will ‘bust bunkers’ in Libya

TRIPOLI: Britain is to add “bunker-busting” bombs to the arsenal its warplanes are using over Libya, a weapon it said Sunday would send a loud message to Moammar Gadhafi that it is time to quit.

“We are not trying to physically target individuals in Gadhafi’s inner circle on whom he relies but we are certainly sending them increasingly loud messages,” British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said.

“Gadhafi may not be capable of listening but those around him would be wise to do so,” he said.

His ministry said the Enhanced Paveway III bombs, each weighing nearly a ton and capable of penetrating the roof or wall of a hardened building, have arrived at the Italian air base from where British warplanes fly missions over Libya.

Al-Jazeera TV broadcast video footage of what it said were foreign forces, possibly British, on the ground near the rebel-held city of Misrata.

There were a number of armed men, some wearing sunglasses and kaffiyehs, who moved off when they realized they were being watched, the footage showed.

South African leader Jacob Zuma was expected to arrive in Tripoli Monday, his second visit since the conflict began, to try to broker a cease-fire on behalf of the African Union.

Zuma’s previous visit made little progress as Gadhafi has refused to relinquish power while rebel leaders say that is a pre-condition for any truce deal.

Gadhafi’s foreign minister held talks in Tunisia Saturday with Lord David Trefgarne, a former British government minister, according to a former British ambassador to Libya who took part in the discussions.

The ex-ambassador refused to disclose what they talked about and Britain’s government said neither it not any intermediaries were talking to officials loyal to Gadhafi.

Rebels control the east of Libya around the city of Benghazi, Libya’s third-biggest city Misrata, and a mountain range stretching from the town of Zintan, 150 km south of Tripoli, toward the border with Tunisia.

Helped by NATO air support, the rebels have been able to push back attacks by pro-Gadhafi forces but in many places they are still under bombardment and cut off from supplies.

A Reuters reporter in Zintan said he heard about a dozen rockets, fired by government forces, strike the outskirts of the town Sunday. There were no reports of casualties.

Forces loyal to Gadhafi have cut electricity supplies to much of the region, causing problems with water supplies because there is no power to pump water from underground wells.

Col. Juma Ibrahim, a senior rebel fighter in Zintan, said he feared an imminent attack. “They are preparing for something, this is the time,” he said. “We are asking Benghazi to supply us with weapons.”

In Misrata, a rebel spokesman said an attack by forces loyal to Gadhafi on the western suburb of Dafniyah had been repelled. “Today is a good day, thank God. We achieved a great victory,” said the spokesman, called Ahmed. “We … captured a tank and killed several soldiers … Two revolutionaries were martyred and 28 others wounded.”

Libyan officials took journalists Sunday to a school in Tripoli near the part of Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound that had been hit by NATO planes during airstrikes Saturday.

There was little evidence of damage, but head teacher Hamid Miftar said the nearby blast had broken one or two windows and terrified the children.

“Imagine the scene, with children this age in a school of this capacity. They all tried to run out at once,” he said.

As reporters toured the school’s classrooms, teachers led the schoolchildren in chants of “Allah, Moammar, Libya together!”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 30, 2011, on page 8.

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