NATO Says Strike May Have Killed Libyan Civilians

NATO said Sunday an airstrike in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, may have caused civilian casualties. Earlier, Libya's foreign minister said the strike killed nine people, including two children. Blaming the deaths on a "weapons system failure," NATO said it regretted the loss of life.

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LAURA SULLIVAN, host: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Laura Sullivan, in for Guy Raz.

And we'll start today in Libya, where NATO acknowledges it has killed civilians in an airstrike. Libyan officials say nine people were killed when NATO blew up a house in a residential neighborhood this morning. Joining us now from Tripoli is NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. Soraya, what do you know about the airstrike?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Well, it occurred overnight in a neighborhood in northern Tripoli. This neighborhood is known for having anti-Gadhafi residents, or having a large contingent of people living there who don't necessarily agree with the regime. And what seems to have happened is that an explosion occurred and that one building collapsed. There was serious damage to a second building. And journalists were taken there by minders to see the damage not long after it occurred. They also took journalists to see four bodies; two of those were children.

SULLIVAN: What is NATO saying?

NELSON: Well, NATO, in a release just a short while ago, acknowledges that there were civilian casualties caused in a Tripoli strike overnight. NATO says that they were going after a military missile site that was operated by pro-Gadhafi forces, and that it appears one weapon did not strike the intended target. They're describing it as a possible weapons system failure, which may have caused a number of civilian casualties.

SULLIVAN: How is the Libyan government reacting to all this?

NELSON: Well, they're very angry. The foreign minister called for global jihad against the West, although the spokesman for the government, Moussa Ibrahim, quickly clarified that they weren't intending to go after targets in Western capitals or anything like that. This is what he had to say.

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MOUSSA IBRAHIM: We will never carry out any terrorist attacks against European or western cities or civilians. We will not target any capitals of the West. Our war is against the armies of the West.

NELSON: Ibrahim says what the Libyan government means by jihad is for people around the world, Muslims and non-Muslims, to stand up and protest or write letters. But he said Libyan forces would continue to fight on the ground here in Libya. He says that the government also remains opposed to al-Qaida. But of course, the question is anyone who's heeding this call to jihad is not going to necessarily understand these clarifications because that certainly wasn't in the original statement.

SULLIVAN: Yesterday, NATO also acknowledged that it accidentally bombed a rebel convoy just a few days ago. Where does all this leave NATO?

NELSON: Well, it certainly creates problems for the alliance at a time they're trying to get more support from members so that it's not just a few countries that are actually engaged in this campaign in Libya. Certainly with its mission being one described as protecting civilians, this does not bode well for them.

SULLIVAN: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, in Tripoli. Soraya, thanks.

NELSON: You're welcome.

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