Tripoli hit by daylight bombings

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The Independent Online

Low-flying Nato planes pounded Tripoli today in a series of 26 strikes that shook the Libyan capital in rare daytime raids designed to step up pressure on Muammar Gaddafi to leave power.

Some of the targets were believed to have been military barracks near Gaddafi's sprawling central Tripoli compound.

Nato has warned for days that it was increasing the scope and intensity of the two-month campaign to oust Gaddafi after more than 40 years in power.

A Gaddafi spokesman said the daylight strikes were particularly terrifying because families were separated during the day. Libyan school children are taking final exams at the end of the school year.

"Tens of thousands of children are in Tripoli. You can imagine the shock and horror of the children. You can imagine the horror of parents who can't check on their children who are far away," he said.

The strikes began at around 11.30am local time and continued through the day. Some landed in clusters of two and three booming explosions.

As Nato intensifies air attacks on Tripoli, there appears to be renewed diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful end to the civil war.

All efforts so far have failed, given that rebels are demanding Gaddafi leave power.

Meanwhile Tripoli sent Foreign Minister Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi to Beijing for a three days of talks, an apparent effort to restore some of Libyan government influence and defuse a setback delivered by China last week. Chinese officials announced on Friday that they had reached out to the rebel forces challenging Gaddafi, a significant effort to boost Chinese engagement in the Libya conflict and possibly jostle for a mediator role.

Beijing had stayed on the sidelines for the first few months since the revolt against Gaddafi's government erupted in mid-February, pointedly avoiding joining international calls for Gaddafi to step down and saying that was for the Libyan people to decide. China also abstained in the UN Security Council vote authorising the use of force against Libyan government loyalists and has repeatedly criticised the Nato bombing campaign in support of the rebels.