NATO Launches Intense Airstrike On Libya
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
Today, on Moammar Gadhafi's 69th birthday, NATO jets launched their most intensive daytime airstrikes to date on the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Missile after missile struck what NATO says are military targets as well as the Libyan leader's sprawling compound.
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Tripoli, and she traveled to the historic city center as the bombs fell.
(Soundbite of bomb explosions)
Unidentified Man #1: Whoa.
Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)
Unidentified Man #3: (Foreign language spoken)
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Patrons pause and look up as explosions rattle this cafe near the city's Roman ruins. One of the waiters comes over with cups of steaming tea.
As more blasts shook the narrow alleys of Tripoli's old town, people tried to carry on as if it were a normal day. Shoppers paused in front of shop windows, while fruit and vegetable vendors set up their stands. One shopkeeper named Sadik(ph) guides two journalists through the winding streets as another explosion shakes the city.
SADIK (Shopkeeper): (Through Translator) We don't care. We don't care.
NELSON: The bombing intensified as the day wore on. Plumes of black smoke swirled in the skies around the hotel where journalists are staying. Libyan officials took journalists to see some of the sites that were hit today. One stop was a Gadhafi sprawling compound, Bab al-Aziziya.
(Soundbite of metal clanking)
NELSON: Smoldering rubble and twisted metal is all that remained of a building that officials claimed was a three-story meeting hall used by Gadhafi to greet international leaders. An Arabic-speaking man, who identified himself as a worker here but who refused to give his name, angrily shouts at journalists that seven missiles hit the building today. Translating for him is a Libyan dentist named Mohammad Sala(ph). He says he lives at the compound as a volunteer human shield.
Unidentified Man #5: (Through Translator) Look at what they did. All this destruction, total destruction. Maybe you will destroy - maybe they will destroy the buildings. But inside, we will never be destroyed.
NELSON: They estimate about 10 people are buried beneath the rubble. The body of one man is pulled out. His arms crossed over his head as if he was trying to shield himself when he was killed. Libyan soldiers and workers wrap the body in a blanket and carry it over to the journalists.
Unidentified Man #6: (Foreign language spoken)
NELSON: Later, they put the body on a gurney and roll it to a waiting ambulance. Sala, the dentist, says the dead man was a custodian named Musta Hasan Naser(ph).
Mr. MOHAMMAD SALA (Dentist): (Through Translator) This is a civilian man who was killed, and there are some more under the rocks, under these destroyed buildings. We couldn't reach.
Colonel MOAMMAR GADHAFI: (Foreign language spoken)
NELSON: In a phone call to Libya state TV, Gadhafi angrily denounced the attacks and swore he will not surrender. He shouts we will not kneel even if it means death.
(Soundbite of gunfire)
NELSON: Pro-Gadhafi loyalists demonstrated in the streets after the statement, firing guns and fireworks in celebration.
(Soundbite of bomb explosions)
NELSON: But NATO clearly has no plans to let up the pressure on Gadhafi's government.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Tripoli.
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