TRIPOLI: NATO said on Saturday it had bombed three satellite dishes in Tripoli to stop “terror broadcasts” by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, but state television remained on the air.
“A few hours ago NATO conducted a precision airstrike that disabled three ground-based Libyan state TV satellite transmission dishes in Tripoli,” NATO spokesman Colonel Roland Lavoie said.
A video of his statement was distributed by NATO’s press service under the headline “NATO silences Qaddafi’s terror broadcasts”.
But Libyan television continued to broadcast, and early on Saturday was showing a repeat of a political talk show from the previous evening.
A NATO official, contacted for comment, referred Reuters to the alliance’s website, where Lavoie’s statement appeared under a less bold headline: “NATO strikes Libyan state TV satellite facility”.
NATO has been bombing Libyan targets since March, when it intervened under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians from Qaddafi’s forces as he fights to crush an uprising against his 41-year rule.
Lavoie said the bombing of the satellite dishes was in line with that mission.
“Our intervention was necessary as TV was being used as an integral component of the regime apparatus designed to systematically oppress and threaten civilians and to incite attacks against them,” he said.
Several explosions had rocked Tripoli late on Friday evening and state television said then that airstrikes had hit civilian targets, though this was impossible to verify.
Lavoie said NATO had acted after careful planning to minimise the risk of casualties or long-term damage to television transmission capabilities, and was now in the process of assessing the effect of the strike.
“Striking specifically these critical satellite dishes will reduce the regime’s ability to oppress civilians while at the same time preserving television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict,” he said.
Leading NATO members including the United States, Britain and France have demanded that Qaddafi leave power and recognized the rebels as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people.
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