Libya crisis: Explosions shake Tripoli

Several large explosions have rocked Libya’s capital, Tripoli, early on Saturday, reports say.

A resident told AFP news agency the explosions were in the eastern suburb of Tajoura, which has previously been hit by coalition forces.

The US, UK and France are taking the lead in enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone as Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fights an uprising against his rule.

He is said to be arming volunteers to join his forces.

“The district was shaken by three explosions in succession,” the resident was quoted as saying.

he blasts followed coalition strikes on Col Gaddafi’s tanks and artillery around the eastern town of Ajdabiya.

Rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces are in a stand-off near the town, witnesses say.

Despite the reports of considerable setbacks for pro-Gaddafi forces, fighting has also continued in Misrata in the west where residents reported shelling continued late on Friday.

The White House has announced President Barack Obama will address Americans on Monday evening, explaining his policy and decision-making on Libya.

‘Diminishing ability’

US military spokesman Vice Admiral William Gortney said Col Gaddafi had “virtually no air defence” and a “diminishing ability to command and sustain his forces on the ground”.

“His air force cannot fly, his warships are staying in port, his ammunitions stores are being destroyed, communications towers are being toppled, his command bunkers rendered useless,” he said.

“We’ve received reports today that he has taken to arming what he calls volunteers to fight the opposition,” he added.

“I’m not sure… if they are truly volunteers or not, and I don’t know how many of these recruits he’s going to get, but I find it interesting that he may now feel it necessary to seek civilian reinforcements.”

Western forces began bombing targets last weekend in a bid to enforce a UN resolution that banned the Libyan military from launching air attacks on civilians.

There are three main aspects to the operation: Action to eliminate Col Gaddafi’s air force and air defences, an arms embargo and strikes against ground forces which may be in a position to inflict civilian casualties.

Nato is expected to take over the lead of the entire Libya operation from the Americans in the coming days. It has already taken command of enforcing the no-fly zone and arms embargo.

Nato has appointed a Canadian general, Charles Bouchard, to oversee the no-fly zone operation and the arms embargo.

Meanwhile, Qatar became the first Arab state to contribute to the air mission over Libya.

The initial leadership of the operation and the bulk of the logistics have been borne by the US, but President Barack Obama has been insistent that the US should not continue to lead the intervention – BBC