ALGIERS — NATO warplanes launched air strikes on the Libyan capital Tripoli on Thursday, state television reported, and a government spokesman said three people were killed.
NATO initially said the only air strike it could confirm took place on Thursday afternoon and targeted a surface-to-air missile battery 40 km (25 miles) south of Tripoli. It dismissed the report of civilian casualties as “misinformation”.
But a NATO official later said mission reports indicated NATO pilots had hit two more targets closer to the city centre.
“In addition to the deliberate air strike on a surface-to-air missile battery south of the city, reports are coming back from pilots that they struck two additional targets closer to the city centre,” the official said in Berlin.
“We are looking into mission reports ... We don’t have exact details. NATO just wants to make sure we are up front in terms of what we are doing.”
State-run Al-Libiya TV channel earlier reported: “Tripoli is now subjected to air strikes. There are civilian casualties.”
Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told Reuters in Tripoli: “A few civilians were killed here in Tripoli. I know that three men who were walking by a checkpoint were killed immediately in the south of Tripoli.”
Ibrahim also said two men were killed in Sirte, 450 km (280 miles) east of Tripoli, suggesting there had been air strikes there as well, without giving details.
Reuters correspondents in Tripoli earlier reported hearing four blasts and saw columns of smoke rising from the southeast of the capital. Heavy anti-aircraft fire was also heard, before and after the blasts.
One photographer said she saw a jet in the sky moments before one loud explosion that threw up a plume of smoke.
A second correspondent said he could see smoke rising from the southeast of the city after hearing four blasts.
Ibrahim, the government spokesman, said: “Some of these air strikes are meaningless. They are attacking very old army camps, checkpoints and sometimes empty spaces.”
“We noticed what they care about is the size of the explosion and that it is visible to the civilian population in Tripoli and Sirte and other places,” he added.