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NATO urged to probe civilian death reports in Libya

Libyans protesters hold old Libyan flags during protest against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Benghazi in Libya, on April 28 2011. UPI\Tarek Alhuony. | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/5be1520644460e194472cd00c96930fe/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Libyans protesters hold old Libyan flags during protest against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Benghazi in Libya, on April 28 2011. UPI\Tarek Alhuony. | License Photo

ZLITAN, Libya, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Amnesty International urged NATO to investigate Libyan government claims that scores of unarmed civilians were killed in this week's airstrike near Zlitan.

"NATO must take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties, even in those cases where [leader Moammar Gadhafi's] forces are using civilian facilities for military purposes," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui of Amnesty International said Wednesday in a release.

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Libyan government officials charge that a NATO airstrike on a farm killed 85 people. NATO officials said its intelligence indicated the farm had been converted to a military facility. NATO said the farm buildings were a "legitimate target" and that he had "no evidence of civilian casualties."

Libyan government officials took foreign journalists to the scene and area hospitals, and reportedly showed reporters body bags of victims, including two women and two children, the human rights organization said.

"NATO continues to stress its commitment to protect civilians," Sahraoui said. "To that effect, it should thoroughly investigate this and all other recent incidents in which civilians were reportedly killed in western Libya as a result of airstrikes."

The military alliance launched its first airstrikes against Gadhafi forces in March. To try to reclaim territory under opposition control, Gadhafi forces launched attacks targeting civilians, Amnesty International said. Such attacks were particularly widespread in Misurata, where residents endured indiscriminate rocket fire from March to mid-May and sporadic attacks in the summer.

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