NATO is deliberately targeting Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, media reports have quoted a senior military alliance official as saying. Previously NATO had said that it did not target individuals in its military campaign in Libya.
The alliance official says the UN resolution justifies the action, because as head of the military, Gaddafi is an essential part of the command structure.
This comes as fresh air strikes sent plumes of smoke over the Libyan leader's compound and nearby military barracks. But the Libyan army has fought back, reportedly shooting down a NATO helicopter 160 kilometers southwest of Tripoli.
US journalist Alexander Cockburn says that NATO has no authority to kill Gaddafi.
“There’s absolutely no possibility that Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 permit that,” Cockburn told RT. “The resolutions, as you well know, were to try and ensure the safety of civilians. How this is being transferred to an assassination attempt – which they’ve been trying for weeks now, of course – is beyond any reason. It’s absurd to claim it.”
The journalist also quoted the International Crisis Group, a respected independent body, which stated that the entire NATO campaign is merely prolonging an illegal use of force and making it far more difficult to reach a settlement.
“What is distasteful is to see the collusion of the International Criminal Court, which… initially came forward with these new accusations of Gaddafi’s crimes against humanity and a mass rape program, which has been denounced as almost certainly untrue by Amnesty International,” Cockburn added.
“In fact, if you look at the entire history, there’s almost no serious data given to the claims that Gaddafi was committing so-called crimes against humanity, genocide or even major massacres,” the journalist concluded.
Pieter Cleppe, from the Open Europe independent think tank in Brussels, agrees.
“In the mandate of the UN resolution, it says that it’s allowed to protect civilians,” he said. “Stretching it out to killing Gaddafi is quite a stretch.”
"You can also question whether protecting civilians [means] bombing them,” Cleppe added.
“We must understand: NATO is an international law onto itself. It attacks anyone it wants, for any reason it wants, wherever it wants, and for as long as it wants,” US author and historian William Blum told RT. “I know that sounds very harsh, but that’s the way it is. That’s what they’ve done in Afghanistan and elsewhere. And there’s no one to stop them.”
“They have long wanted to remove Gaddafi,” Blum added. “He has been a thorn in the side of the West for decades and decades.”
According to Dan Plesch from the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy, had the US and NATO really wished to take out Gaddafi, they would have already done so.
“Had the United States wished to do so, it could have carried out a huge military operation,” Plesch said. “Libya is a much easier target than Iraq because the entire population is in coastal cities, and the coast is completely dominated by NATO sea and air power.”
Meanwhile, the country's rebels have been promised at least $1 billion in assistance from donors including the US, Britain, France and several Arab states.