Nato airstrike hits Gaddafi compound

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The Independent Online

Nato forces have carried out fresh airstrikes on the Libyan capital of Tripoli hitting Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's compound, it was reported today.

Two craters, apparently caused by missiles, were shown to journalists at the dictator's sprawling Bab Aziziyeh residential compound.

The Libyan government claimed that three people were killed during the air attacks, which apparently hit the city early this morning.

It came after the most senior American military officer admitted the conflict was heading towards a "stalemate" despite more than a month of allied strikes against Gaddafi's forces.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US military's joint chiefs of staff, said Col Gaddafi's ground forces had been degraded by 30 per cent to 40 per cent.

But he stoked fears of a protracted military engagement for British and other Nato forces by warning of a deadlock.

"It's certainly moving towards a stalemate," he told American troops during a visit to Iraq's capital, Baghdad yesterday.

"At the same time we've attrited somewhere between 30% and 40% of his main ground forces, his ground force capabilities. Those will continue to go away over time."

He added that the allies would "put the squeeze" on the Libyan dictator "until he's gone".

"Gaddafi's gotta go," he said.

The US has deployed unmanned Predator drones for the first time as forces loyal to Col Gaddafi continue to besiege Misrata in the west.

Hundreds of people have been killed as government forces have attacked the city of 300,000 people, with Nato's air campaign largely unable to strike at the attackers because of their proximity to civilians.

The deployment of the drones is expected to help.

But US Senator John McCain, on a visit to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya, said the air campaign needed to be "urgently" stepped up.

He said the allies needed to provide rebels with training and weapons to "get this thing over with".

"I would encourage every nation, especially the United States, to recognise the Transitional National Council as the legitimate voice of the Libyan people," the senior Republican said.

"They have earned this right and Gaddafi has forfeited it by waging war on his own people."

Mr McCain also echoed fears of a deadlock and warned that it may encourage Islamist extremists to get involved.

"I fear a stalemate that could lead to the emergence of radical Islamic extremists," he said.