Libya unrest: Blasts rock Tripoli as NATO extends campaign

Tripoli, June 1: Powerful explosions rocked Tripoli as NATO today pressed its air war amid Libyan charges it has killed 718 civilians and reports that British ex-special forces soldiers are advising the rebels.

NATO allies today (June 1) agreed to extend the campaign in Libya for another 90 days, prolonging the mission until late September, the alliance said.

"NATO and partners have just decided to extend our mission for Libya for another 90 days," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"This decision sends a clear message to the Gaddafi regime: We are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya," he said in a statement after the North Atlantic Council, the decision-making body of the 28-nation alliance, agreed to extend the mission.

In the Libyan capital, government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told a news conference that 10 weeks of NATO-led air strikes authorised by the UN Security Council to protect civilians had also wounded 4,067.

He warned the departure of veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi, as demanded by NATO and the G8, would be a "worst case scenario" for Libya.

"Since March 19, and up to May 26, there have been 718 martyrs among civilians and 4,067 wounded -- 433 of them seriously," Ibrahim said, citing health ministry figures which cannot be independently verified.

He said these figures do not include Libyan military casualties, a toll the defence ministry refuses to divulge.

Soon after he spoke yesterday, six powerful explosions rocked the centre of Tripoli, the target of more and more intensive air raids by NATO warplanes for more than a week, an AFP journalist reported.


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