Loud explosions have rocked the Libyan capital, Tripoli, a day after international forces launched an operation to enforce a no-fly zone over the North African country.
Anti-aircraft tracer fire erupted in Tripoli late on Sunday, indicating a second wave of incoming jets aimed at targets belonging to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Britain’s ministry of defence said one of its submarines had again fired guided Tomahawk missiles on Libyan air defence systems on Sunday.
Gunfire could also be heard from the area around Gaddafi’s residence in the Bab el-Aziziya barracks in the south of Tripoli, with reports of separate explosions coming from the same area.
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from the capital, said it was not immediately clear where the explosions had occurred as journalists were not allowed to visit the sites targeted.
The blasts came two days after the United Nations Security Council authorised international military action to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, as well as “all necessary measures” to prevent attacks by Gaddafi forces on civilians.
‘Gaddafi not a target’
The US military said the bombardment so far has succeeded in degrading Gaddafi’s air defences.
But a Pentagon spokesman stressed in a press briefing on Sunday that the Libyan leader is not a target for the international military assault on the country.
However, Navy Vice Admiral William E Gortney added that any of Gaddafi’s ground troops advancing on pro-democracy forces are open targets for US and allied attacks.
“If they are moving on opposition forces … yes, we will take them under attack,” he told reporters.
“There has been no new air activity by the regime and we have detected no radar emissions from any of the air defence sites targeted and there’s been a significant decrease in in the use of all Libyan air surveillance radars.”
Gortney said the coalition acting against Gaddafi, which originally grouped the US, Britain, France, Italy and Canada, had broadened to include Belgium and Qatar.
Army announces ceasefire
His comments came shortly after the Libyan military announced its second ceasefire since the UN resolution authorising the no-fly zone was passed.
But the White House has said it will not recognise a ceasefire declaration.
“Our view at this point…is that it isn’t true, or has been immediately violated,” White House National Security
Adviser Tom Donilon told reporters on Sunday.
Despite the strikes, the Libyan leader has vowed to fight on and in a televised address, a defiant Gaddafi promised a “long war” that his forces would win.
“We will fight for every square in our land,” Gaddafi said. “We will die as martyrs.”
He said the air attacks by foreign forces amounted to a “cold war” on Islam and threatened retribution against Libyans who sided with the foreign intervention.
“We will fight and we will target any traitor who is co-operating with the Americans or with the Christian Crusade,” he said.
Conflicting casualty claims
The comments came as Tripoli’s official media said the air strikes were targeting civilian objectives and that there were “civilians casualties as a result of this aggression”.
However, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, denied that any civilians had been killed in the bombardment, which saw some 110 cruise missiles being shot from American naval vessels in the Mediterranean sea.
Gaddafi “was attacking Benghazi and we are there to stop that … we are ending his ability to attack us from the ground, so he will not continue to execute his own people,” Mullen said.
“It was a significant point when the Arab League voted against this guy. This is a colleague [of theirs], and we’ve had a significant number of coalition countries who’ve come together to provide capability.”
But Arab League chief Amr Moussa on Sunday condemned what he called the “bombardment of civilians” and called for an emergency meeting of the group of 22 states to discuss Libya.
He requested a report into the bombardment, which he said had “led to the deaths and injuries of many Libyan civilians”.
“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” Egypt’s state news agency quoted Moussa as saying.
The Arab League had urged the UN to impose a no-fly zone on Libya and Arab support provided crucial underpinning for the passage of the UN Security Council resolution last week that enabled Western powers to take military action.