NATO Says Hit Military Targets in Libya's Brega

NATO unaware of 15 civilian deaths reported by state media; series of explosions heard in Tripoli as jets fly overhead; group of sports stars defect to rebels.

NATO missiles hit a site in Libya used by Muammar Gadhafi's forces to stockpile military supplies and vehicles, the alliance said on Saturday, adding it was unaware of 15 civilian deaths reported by state media.

A top rebel official, citing the existence of talks with Gadhafi allies through intermediaries, said they would be ready to discuss any political settlement that did not involve Gadhafi remaining in power, but said no proposals had emerged as yet.

The attack late on Friday was the second within hours on what NATO said were clearly identified military targets in the coastal city of Brega, around 200 km (130 miles) west of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Libya officials inspecting the site of a NATO missile strike that killed Gadhafi's youngest son and three grandchildren and wounded friends and relatives, in Tripoli, Libya, April 30, 2011.AP

Libyan state television said a local bakery and a restaurant had been hit, wounding 20 people in addition to the 15 dead. State news agency Jana said a strike in the same area earlier on Friday had killed five civilians.

"We have no indications of any civilian casualties in connection to these strikes," a NATO official said.

"What we know is that the buildings we hit were occupied and used by pro-Gadhafi forces to direct attacks against civilians around Ajdabiya," the official said. Ajdabiya is rebel-held.

"Unlike the pro-Gadhafi forces, we go to great lengths to reduce the possibility of any civilian casualties," the official added.

Separately, a Reuters correspondent in the capital Tripoli heard four explosions as jets flew overhead on two occasions on Saturday. The blasts appeared to come from the eastern suburb of Tajura.

In rebel-held Misrata, 200 km (130 miles) east of Tripoli, a rebel spokesman called Abdelsalam said Gadhafi's forces shelled the city on Saturday but that things were quieter since a NATO strike on Wednesday which took out pro-Gadhafi positions. A local doctor told Reuters there had been no serious injuries.

Credibility

NATO acknowledged for the first time last week that one of its raids in a three-month campaign could have caused civilian casualties, prompting concerns within the alliance.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said NATO's credibility was at stake and called for a suspension of the campaign -- an appeal that was swiftly knocked down at NATO headquarters and by allies, including France and Britain.

In a televised address this week, Gadhafi branded NATO "murderers" and vowed to fight to the death to stay in power.

The bombing campaign in support of Libyan rebels seeking to end Gadhafi's 41-year-old rule is into its fourth month.

Progress has been slow recently and rebels have taken many casualties, but there are signs Gadhafi's forces also are stretched and the economy feeling the effects of international sanctions.

Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice chairman of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), recognized by about 20 countries as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people, reiterated that a political settlement was possible.

"We have agreed to take a serious look at any proposal as long as Gadhafi does not remain in power. We are waiting for any proposals that are (being discussed) around the world," he told reporters in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"We have not received anything yet," he added.

Officials for Gadhafi's government in Tripoli were not immediately available to comment.

In what could be a morale-booster for rebels, four members of Libya's national football team and 13 other football figures defected to the rebels, the rebel council said.