NATO Air Strikes Pound Key Tripoli Port

Co-ordinated NATO air strikes destroyed eight Libyan warships in an attack on Tripoli's main port Thursday. Fire from the burning port could be seen from kilometres away, rising into the night sky. "All NATO's targets are military in nature and are directly linked to the Gadhafi regime's systematic attacks on the Libyan people," said Rear-Admiral Russell Harding, deputy commander Operation Unified Protector.

Smoke billows from a ship on fire, right, at the sea port in Tripoli on May 20, 2011. Libyan government said the fire was caused by coalition air strikes.

OTTAWA - Co-ordinated NATO air strikes destroyed eight Libyan warships in an attack on Tripoli's main port Thursday.

Fire from the burning port could be seen from kilometres away, rising into the night sky.

"All NATO's targets are military in nature and are directly linked to the Gadhafi regime's systematic attacks on the Libyan people," said Rear-Admiral Russell Harding, deputy commander Operation Unified Protector.

"Given the escalating use of naval assets, NATO had no choice but to take decisive action to protect the civilian population of Libya and NATO forces at sea," he added.

NATO says forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi had been mining the port, at one point booby-trapping vessels loaded with munitions and using mannequins in the windows, preventing a defensive response from allied forces.

Gadhafi's wife and daughter have reportedly fled Libya for Tunisia, a potential sign of mounting pressure on the dictator.

Gadhafi's son died in an earlier bombing. The leader has been trying to stamp out calls for his removal since February and NATO, commanded by Canadian Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, has been giving air support to the rebels.

Canadian warship, HMCS Charlottetown is operating near the bombed port.

Ottawa expelled five Libyan diplomats from their embassy earlier this week.

Toronto Sun