’40 civilians killed in Tripoli strikes’

Tripoli, March 31: The top Vatican official in Libya says at least 40 civilians have been killed following airstrikes launched by US and its allies on the capital Tripoli.

“The so-called humanitarian raids have killed dozens of civilian victims in some neighborhoods of Tripoli,” Reuters quoted the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, as saying on Thursday.

He added, “I have collected several witness accounts from reliable people. In particular, in the Buslim neighborhood, due to the bombardments, a civilian building collapsed, causing the death of 40 people.”

“It’s true that the bombardments seem pretty much on target, but it is also true that when they hit military targets, which are in the middle of civilian neighborhoods, the population is also involved,” said Martinelli.

“Yesterday I said that bombardments had hit, albeit indirectly, some hospitals. To be precise, one of these hospitals is in Mizda town, located about 145 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Tripoli.”

Libyan state TV has announced that at least 114 people, including several civilians, have been killed and 445 others injured in US-led military airstrikes in the oil-rich country.

“From March 20 to March 23, the attacks have killed 114 people and injured 445 people,” the network quoted Libyan Health Minister Khaled Omar as saying at a press conference in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Saturday.

According to government figures, 104 people were killed in Tripoli, while another 10 civilians lost their lives in Sirte, the hometown of the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says some 351,600 people have fled the crisis-hit Libya for fear of violence and around 1,500 to 2,000 are making their way to Egypt each day.

According to US military officials, more than 350 aircraft are participating in the US-led campaign of military airstrikes against Libya to protect civilians from Libyan regime’s attacks.

Apart from the United States, twelve countries from the European Union are taking part in Operation Odyssey Dawn, which began on March 19 after the UN Security Council imposed a no-fly zone over troubled Libya to “protect civilians” from Gaddafi’s attacks.

The rising civilian death toll in Libya has set off a frenzy of speculations about the real motive behind the war in the country, with many analysts saying that under the guise of protecting civilians, as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolution 1973, Washington and its Western allies are basically after the North African country’s vast oil reserves.