Libyans: NATO Bombing Raids Also Killed Civilians Many Libyans have praised NATO for helping opposition forces topple Moammar Gadhafi. But in one Tripoli neighborhood, residents say a NATO bomb killed five civilians.
NPR logo

Libyans: NATO Bombing Raids Also Killed Civilians

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Libyans: NATO Bombing Raids Also Killed Civilians

Libyans: NATO Bombing Raids Also Killed Civilians

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris. NATO will decide this week whether to end or extend its Libya mission. The head of Libya's transitional government has asked NATO to keep up its operations through the end of the year, though the alliance will likely stop its air campaign by the end of this month.

There's no doubt that NATO's help was crucial to the rebellion inside Libya, but as NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Tripoli, that aid came at a cost.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: On June 19th at precisely 1:10 a.m., death came to an apartment building on a quiet residential street in the Souq al-Juma neighborhood of Tripoli. Mohammed Abueishi lives near the building that was targeted by a NATO airstrike on that night.

MOHAMMED ABUEISHI: (Foreign Language Spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I was sleeping and, suddenly, there was an enormous blast and all the doors and all the windows burst open. There was a huge amount of dust in the house, he says. I stumbled out to find my uncle's house destroyed.

ABDUL RAHMAN AL-GHARARI: (Foreign Language Spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Another relative, Abdul Rahman al-Gharari, lists the names and ages of his dead family members. Among them were two children, one nine months old, the other two years old. A total of five members of his family died, he says.

NATO's mission in its intervention in Libya was to protect civilian lives, but now that Gadhafi is gone, evidence is emerging that the bombing raids killed innocent civilians, as well as Gadhafi fighters. Residents in this neighborhood supported the Libyan revolution and so, they say, they have no reason to lie about what happened here.

Souq al-Juma was well known for its opposition to Colonel Gadhafi. It was one of the first Tripoli neighborhoods to rise up against him and the people here say they view the people who died in this NATO strike as martyrs, not victims. It's been four months, and where I'm standing now on top of the ruin of the apartment building that was hit by the NATO bomb is still a pile of twisted metal and rubble. And the residents here say they want an investigation into what happened.

ABUEISHI: (Foreign Language Spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We need compensation and for NATO to take responsibility for the deaths, says Mohammed Abueishi.

Unlike other targets, NATO has admitted that it mistakenly hit this house during its operations, but it says it has not been given any proof that anyone died in this NATO strike or, in fact, at any other anywhere else in the country. And it says it won't send investigators to make sure.

COL. ROLAND LAVOIE: We don't have any confirmation of any civilian casualties as a result of our operation, so I couldn't give you a number because that number is essentially zero in term of confirmed casualties resulting from our strikes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Colonel Roland Lavoie is the NATO spokesman for the Libyan mission. He says the Gadhafi regime often lied about civilian casualties in its propaganda war.

LAVOIE: The Gadhafi regime constantly made claims that were totally unsubstantiated and that made no sense.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Residents in Souq al-Juma gave insight into how Gadhafi's government did try and stage manage events. Almost immediately after the strike on June 19th, members of the International Press Corps escorted by their minders were brought here.

AL-GHARARI: (Foreign Language Spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Abdul Rahman al-Gharari says, Gadhafi's people told me to say NATO killed my family and, long live Moammar. And if I didn't, they said they would throw me out of my job.

Neighbors tried to move the bodies from the site, but they were told to leave them there for maximum dramatic effect. And Gadhafi supporters who had no knowledge of the strike were bussed in to give testimony to the foreign reporters.

Though only five people are known to have died, the Gadhafi government at the time put the death toll at nine.

AL-GHARARI: (Foreign Language Spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Al-Gharari says he's grateful to NATO for all it's done for Libya, but now that the regime is gone, people here want the coalition to look into what happened in Souq al-Juma. The Libya transitional government, though, is unlikely to push the issue. It has asked NATO to extend its mission and may not want to put its allies in an uncomfortable position.

Kristele Younes works with the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. She says it's absurd for NATO to maintain that no one was harmed by its bombs.

KRISTELE YOUNES: There hasn't been any conflict in history where civilians have not been harmed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She says NATO needs to be held accountable.

YOUNES: We need to have NATO investigators looking into those allegations. Some of them may be false, but I am convinced some of them are true.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Tripoli.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.