TUNIS (Reuters) - Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s spokesman said on Thursday that NATO air strikes and shelling of Sirte by interim government forces on Wednesday and Thursday had killed 151 people.
Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, in a satellite phone call to Reuters in Tunis, also said the city’s main hospital had run out of medical supplies and power.
His claims could not immediately be verified as Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, is largely cut off from communication and is besieged on three fronts by ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) forces.
A NATO official told Reuters that it had attacked Sirte over the last 48 hours, but that the most significant target was a Gaddafi command centre.
“The compound was clearly a military target since (Gaddafi) forces were using it to coordinate and support operations against civilians,” the official said.
At the time of that strike, NATO had no indication there were any civilians in the area and Ibrahim’s claims of civilian deaths were “unsubstantiated,” he said.
“Between yesterday and this morning, 151 civilians were killed inside their homes as the Grad rockets and other explosives fell upon their heads,” Ibrahim said.
“The city hospital stopped functioning altogether last night. Patients died simply because nothing can be done to help them.”
A familiar figure in Tripoli while Gaddafi was in power, Ibrahim spoke on Thursday from an undisclosed location.
He made similar claims last week when he said that NATO raids on Sirte had hit a residential building and a hotel, killing 354 people.
A spokesman at the time said NATO was aware of the allegations but that such claims were often unfounded.
Sirte is one of only two major towns still under the control of pro-Gaddafi forces after the NTC took over most of another stronghold, Sabha, on Wednesday.
Ibrahim called on the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, foreign media and rights groups to try to get into the centre of Sirte.
“We hold them directly responsible to expose the crimes committed against a whole city with the vigour and energy they had when they believed they were helping the cities of Misrata and Zawiyah from Libyan armed forces,” he said, referring to a devastating Gaddafi bombardment of those cities during the war.
NATO says its air strikes in Libya since March have not killed large numbers of civilians.
Ibrahim also attacked the raising of Libya’s new flag at the United Nations on Tuesday.
“Look at Palestine — more than 60 years legitimate struggle for a state and still nobody wants to hear the case of the Palestinian people to have a seat at the U.N.,” Ibrahim said.
“Yet some armed gangs, supported by NATO, get their flag raised at the U.N. before they’re in even in control of the whole country. The Libyan people didn’t vote for that flag. It’s all through violence and rockets and bombs.”
(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Editing by Roger Atwood)