NATO air strikes may force Libya to halt fighting by its army in the besieged port of Misrata and let local tribes take over the battle, the government said, in what could amount to an important shift in the battlefield city.
Hours after the announcement of a shift in tactics in Misrata by forces of leader Muammar Gaddafi, NATO bombs struck what appeared to be a bunker near his compound in central Tripoli. The government said the target was a car park and three people were killed.
“The situation in Misrata will be eased, will be dealt with by the tribes around Misrata and the rest of Misrata’s people and not by the Libyan army,” Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told reporters in Tripoli.
“You will see how they will be swift and quick and fast and the Libyan army will be out of this situation in Misrata, because the Libyan people around Misrata cannot sustain it like this,” he said.
“The tactic of the Libyan army is to have a surgical solution, but it doesn’t work, with the air strikes it doesn’t work.”
Misrata, the last large city held by rebels in the west of the country, has been under siege for nearly two months. Hundreds of people have died in shelling and fighting, petrol is scarce and thousands of migrant workers are trapped there.
Western countries have vowed not to stop bombing Libya until Gaddafi leaves power, but their air war now in its second month has so far failed to tip the balance.
There have been signs of rebel success in recent days in Misrata. Insurgents seized control of a downtown office building that had been a base for Gaddafi’s snipers and other troops after a furious two-week battle.
Shattered masonry, wrecked tanks and the incinerated corpse of a government soldier lay near the former insurance offices on Friday.
“They shot anything that moved,” one fighter said of the Gaddafi men driven out.