NATO airstrike mistakenly hits Libyan rebel convoy

TRIPOLI, Libya — NATO said Saturday it mistakenly struck a column of Libyan rebel vehicles in an airstrike near an eastern oil town two days earlier and expressed regret for any casualties that might have resulted.

The alliance has accidentally hit rebel forces before in its air campaign to protect civilians in the civil war between Moammar Gadhafi's military and the fighters trying to end his more than four decades in power. The rebels have also complained that NATO's strikes have not helped them gain decisive momentum against the Libyan leader's better trained and equipped military, which still has firm control over most of western Libya. The rebels control much of the east.

The alliance statement gave no figures on casualties from Thursday's airstrike, but said it regretted "any possible loss of life or injuries caused by this unfortunate incident."

Meanwhile, NATO continued to strike targets in the capital Tripoli into the early hours today. The thump of an explosion could be felt in the center of the city about 1 a.m. It wasn't clear what had been hit or if there were casualties.

In the accidental strike on rebel forces, NATO said its forces spotted a column of military vehicles near the frequent flash point town of Brega where forces loyal to Gadhafi had recently been operating and hit them because they believed they posed a threat to civilians.

"NATO can now confirm that the vehicles hit were part of an opposition patrol," the statement said.

A rebel military spokesman, Abdel-Rahman Abu-Sin, said Saturday that they appreciated NATO's efforts and understood the difficulty in differentiating between the two sides along shifting front lines.

More Syrians flee from army attacks

Syrian troops backed by tanks and firing heavy machine guns swept into a village near the Turkish border Saturday, forcing more people displaced by the crackdown on antigovernment protesters to flee across the frontier. The Local Coordination Committees, a group that documents protests, said troops backed by six tanks and several armored personnel carriers entered Bdama, about 12 miles from the Turkish border. "We are besieged by the border fence from one side and the Syrian army from the other," said Jamil Saeb, one of the Syrians who had so far decided to stay in Syria. "We are expecting a humanitarian crisis within hours if Turkey does not send aid to us."

Yemeni clerics call for presidential elections

More than 100 influential religious clerics and tribal leaders are calling for presidential elections in Yemen. The petition obtained Saturday demands the ouster of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh and new elections within 60 days. Saleh is undergoing medical treatment in Saudi Arabia after being wounded in an attack on his palace earlier this month. A ruling party official said Friday that Saleh intends to return to Yemen within days, but the clerics and tribal leaders said he's unfit to resume his post. Among the petitioners is the spiritual leader of the country's fundamentalist Islamic opposition party.

NATO airstrike mistakenly hits Libyan rebel convoy 06/18/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 18, 2011 11:51pm]

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