The U.S. commander of the coalition operation in Libya said on Monday that the attack on Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's compound was intended to degrade his military capabilities, not target him specifically, even as Libyan government officials accused the West of aiming to assassinate the embattled leader.
"I don't know much about the location of the Libyan leader, nor have we expended any military effort in that regard," Gen. Carter Ham told Pentagon reporters via satellite from Germany. "We have expended considerable effort to degrade the Libyan regime's military command and control capability, and I think we have had some fairly significant effect in that regard."
Libyan officials showed reporters a damaged building at Qaddafi's fortified compound, accusing the West of targeting him. Qaddafi's compound serves as his residence and also houses military barracks and other installations, according to Reuters. The damaged building within it, which Qaddafi uses as holding room for guests before they meet with him in a nearby tent, was severely damaged, CNN reported.
Qaddafi's compound is "a pretty big place, with lots of different buildings and facilities inside," Ham said, noting that along with "normal" facilities-- such as a mess hall-- the compound included were some air defenses and a command-and-control facility. "That is the facility that was attacked. We do so with tremendous precision," he said.
Sunday night in Libya, reporters in Tripoli heard an explosion and saw smoke rising from the compound.
Libyan officials said that although no one was hurt in the attack, Western powers were trying to target Qaddafi. "It was a barbaric bombing," government spokesman Musa Ibrahim said. "This contradicts American and Western [statements] ... that it is not their target to attack this place."
Coalition warplanes began bombing Libya on Saturday to destroy the country’s integrated air defense system and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone. The following day, the United States, along with Britain, France, and others, deployed American B-2 bombers, F-15 jets, and F-16 fighters to strike an array of targets in and around Tripoli, including several military airfields.
Separately, Qaddafi-controlled media reported 64 people -- mostly civilians -- killed in airstrikes since Saturday.
This article appears in the March 21, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.