NATO air strikes kill 354 in Sirte: Moussa Ibrahim

By Alexander Dziadosz

SIRTE, Libya | Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:40am EDT

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi’s spokesman told Reuters on Saturday that NATO air strikes on the ousted leader’s home city of Sirte overnight had hit a residential building and a hotel, killing 354 people.

Fighters loyal to the interim government were fighting street to street, slowly advancing into the city, but have been unable to dislodged Gaddafi loyalists defending it, Reuters journalists embedded with the interim government force said.

The city echoed with the sound of heavy shelling and gunfire. National Transitional Council interim government fighters said they had seen NATO warplanes above the city on Friday but did not know if they had bombed.

“NATO attacked the city of Sirte last night with more than 30 rockets directed at the city’s main hotel and the Tamin building, which consists of more than 90 residential flats,” Gaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said in a call from a satellite phone to the Reuters office in Tunis.

“The result is more than 354 dead and 89 still missing and almost 700 injured in one night,” he added. The Tamin building is a landmark building in the center of Sirte, named after the Tamin insurance company.

Reuters was unable to verify Ibrahim’s account of the incident. Gaddafi-held areas have been cut off from communication since the fall of Tripoli.

“How can anyone justify NATO’s murderous acts in support of an armed group against whole cites and tribes in Libya?” Ibrahim said, adding there was no foreign media in the center of Sirte.

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