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Nato airstrike in Libya 'kills 15'

Libya's government said a Nato airstrike west of Tripoli has destroyed a large family compound belonging to a close associate of Muammar Gaddafi, killing at least 15 people, including three children.

The alliance said the strike hit a "command and control" centre.

Gaddafi's regime has repeatedly accused Nato of targeting civilians in an attempt to rally support against international intervention into Libya's civil war. The alliance insists it tries to avoid killing civilians.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said Nato bombs struck the compound belonging to Khoweildi al-Hamidi outside the city of Surman, some 40 miles west of Tripoli.

Nato initially said it had not hit any targets in the Surman area. But the alliance later released a statement saying it conducted a "precision strike" near the town "on a legitimate military target - a command and control node which was directly involved in coordinating systematic attacks" on Libyan citizens.

The commander of Nato's Libya operation, Lt Gen Charles Bouchard, said the strike "will greatly degrade the Gaddafi regime's forces' ability to carry out their barbaric assaults on the Libyan people".

"Wherever Gaddafi tries to hide his command and control centres, we will find them," he said.

Nato officials have repeatedly said the alliance does not target individuals. It could not confirm reports of casualties in the latest strike but said it regrets any loss of civilian life.

Al-Hamidi is a long-time regime insider who took part in the 1969 coup that brought Gaddafi to power. He reportedly commanded a battalion that crushed rebels in the nearby western city of Zawiya in March, and his daughter is married to one of Gaddafi's sons, Saadi.

Ibrahim said al-Hamidi escaped the airstrikes unharmed but that three children, two of them al-Hamidi's grandchildren, were among the 15 people killed. Officials said he was inside a still-intact building at the time of the strike.

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