NATO planes fire on rebels, mistakenly, killing 5

09:07, April 08, 2011      

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NATO pilots made a second mistake Thursday by attacking on a Libyan rebel combat group, killing at least five rebels, sharply intensifying agony among anti-Gadhafi forces.

In Benghazi, opposition spokeswoman Iman Bughaigis said the death toll could be as high as 13.

The second bungled NATO military mission, which was meant to help the rebels concentrated in Libya's east region, happened outside the strategic oil town of Brega. Military analysts have questioned poor coordination work between NATO armed forces and the rebel convoys.

Some even questioned the job by American intelligence officers on the group who were reportedly having slipped into Libyan battle grounds.

The rebels have complained publicly that NATO has done too little to help them fight Colonel Gadhafi's government forces. Some rebels were heart shouting insults against NATO as they retreated from the battle lines. One rebel fighter yelled: "Down, down with NATO."

In Brussels, NATO did not directly acknowledge responsibility for a blundered airstrike on the rebels, but noted that the area where the attack occurred was "unclear and fluid with mechanized weapons traveling in all directions."

Last week, NATO took control over the international air strikes in Libya that began on March 19 as a U.S.-led mission. Although the allied strikes thwarted Colonel Gadhafi's efforts to crush the rebellion, but the rebels remain outnumbered and outgunned and have had difficulty in making headway into government-held territory.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said repeatedly there will be no U.S. troops on the ground in Libya, although there are reports of small CIA intelligence teams in the country.

Last Friday, a NATO air strike killed 13 rebel fighters in eastern Libya. An opposition spokesman described it as an "unfortunate accident" in the shifting battles and pledged support for the international air campaign to weaken Colonel Gadhafi's military power.

But rebel discontent with NATO appears to be growing. Opposition commanders have complained in recent days that the air strikes were coming too slowly and lacking the precision to give the rebels a clear edge.

People's Daily Online / Agencies
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