NATO says strikes will wipe out threat of Muammar Gaddafi's forces being able to lay mines. But analysts say NATO is going beyond its mandate of protecting civilians and preparing the ground for future all-out war. Journalists were taken by the Gaddafi’s officials to film the scenes of the bombings.
All fighting ships of the Libyan navy have been sunk or severely damaged by RAF jets in a strike that NATO said has crippled the ability of Muammar Gaddafi's forces to lay mines.
The ships were hit during a raid on Thursday night on Tripoli and Al Khums. One warship remained afloat but listing at its mooring between two merchant tankers. Fire and smoke were visible from miles away.
Of the rest of the fleet, docked out of view in the main port in Tripoli, one vessel was sunk and three severely damaged. All four were raid boats with fast manoeuvrability. At least three appeared to have surface-to-air missile launchers.
Another Libyan naval vessel was hit in the port of Al Khums, east of the capital. The RAF said the fleet had been hit to prevent it laying mines or threatening NATO warships enforcing UN-backed restrictions off Libya.
None of the ships had been seen putting to sea in daylight during the past three weeks.
At least four non-attack vessels, including coastguard cutters, remained unharmed nearby.
Ships had only started to arrive in Tripoli in recent days, after three months of sanctions against oil and many household supplies, and port officials said supplies were likely to be halted again following the attacks. "Last night's attacks have changed our expectations of shipping movements," said a spokesman for Tripoli ports.
"This will be a big disruption to civilian shipping," it will intensify the sanctions and make our experiences worse. It will return us to square one and stop all movement of goods"
Debris from the damaged warships had hit buildings and scattered over hundreds of metres. NATO has in recent days taken its battle to the heart of the capital, striking what it claims to be command and control targets.
However, it is coming under increasing criticism that its actions extend beyond the UN mandate to protect civilians.
The Libyan government says the navy had not put to sea since NATO started attacking government forces and installations two months ago.
Source: Guardian 20 May 2011