TRIPOLI, Libya -- This nation's government said NATO warplanes struck a residential neighborhood in the capital yesterday and killed nine civilians, including two children. Hours later, NATO confirmed one of its airstrikes went astray.
The incident gave supporters of Moammar Gadhafi's regime a new rallying point against the international intervention in Libya's civil war. The foreign minister called for a "global jihad" on the West in response.
Early yesterday, journalists based in the Libyan capital were rushed by government officials to the damaged building, which appeared to have been partly under construction. Reporters were later escorted back to the site, where children's toys, teacups and dust-covered mattresses could be seen amid the rubble.
In a statement issued late yesterday at Brussels headquarters, the trans-Atlantic alliance said airstrikes were launched against a military missile site in Tripoli, but "it appears that one weapon did not strike the intended target and that there may have been a weapons system failure which may have caused a number of civilian casualties."
"NATO regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes against a regime determined to use violence against its own citizens," said Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, commander of the anti-Libya operation.
Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi told reporters nine civilians, including two children, were killed in the explosion and said 18 people were wounded. He said the strike was a "deliberate attack on a civilian neighborhood," and follows other alleged targeting of nonmilitary targets such as a hotel, an oxygen factory and civilian vehicles.
It has not always been possible to independently verify the government's reports of strikes on nonmilitary targets since NATO began its air operations in March.
"The deliberate bombing. . . is a direct call for all free peoples of the world and for all Muslims to initiate a global jihad against the oppressive, criminal West and never to allow such criminal organizations as NATO to decide the future of other independent and sovereign nations," al-Obeidi said. He did not take questions.