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Nato planes target TV transmitters

Nato warplanes have bombed Libyan state TV satellite transmitters in Tripoli because they were being used to incite violence and threaten civilians, the military alliance said.

A series of loud explosions echoed across the capital before dawn. There was no immediate comment from Libyan officials on what had been hit, but state TV was still on the air in Tripoli.

Nato said the airstrikes aimed to degrade Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's "use of satellite television as a means to intimidate the Libyan people and incite acts of violence against them.

"Striking specifically these critical satellite dishes will reduce the regime's ability to oppress civilians while (preserving) television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict," the alliance said in a statement.

It said Gaddafi's inflammatory TV broadcasts were intended to mobilise his supporters.

The attempt to silence the government's TV broadcasts comes at a sensitive time for the rebels, who appeared to be in disarray after the mysterious death of their chief military commander. General Abdel-Fattah Younes' body was found on, dumped outside the rebels' de facto capital of Benghazi, along with the bodies of two colonels who were his top aides. They had been shot and their bodies burned.

Nato too has been increasingly embarrassed by the failure of its bombing campaign, now in its fifth month, to dislodge Gaddafi's regime. With the fasting month of Ramadan due to start in August, there is growing realisation within the alliance that the costly campaign will drag on into the autumn and possibly longer.

Nato had originally hoped that a series of quick, sharp strikes would quickly force Gaddafi to give up power.

Eight Nato members have been participating in air campaign in Libya: the US, Britain, France, Belgium, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Italy. They have carried out a total of more than 6,500 strike sorties.

But this coalition has been gradually fraying amid growing public opposition in Europe to the costs of the campaign - estimated at more than a billion euros - at a time of budget cuts and other austerity measures.

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