Nato warplanes have bombarded targets in Tripoli with more than 20 air strikes around Muammar Gaddafi's residential compound, in what appeared to be the heaviest night of bombing in the Libyan capital since the Western alliance launched its air campaign against his forces.
The rapid string of strikes, all within less than half an hour, set off thunderous booms that rattled windows and sent heavy plumes of smoke over the city, including from an area close to Gaddafi's sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound.
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said at least three people were killed and dozens wounded in Nato strikes that targeted what he described as buildings used by volunteer units of the Libyan army.
Nato said a number of the strikes hit a vehicle storage facility next to Bab al-Aziziya that had been used in supplying regime forces "conducting attacks on civilians".
It was not immediately clear if the facility was the only target hit in the barrage. Bab al-Azizya, which includes a number of military facilities, has been pounded repeatedly by Nato strikes.
As jets flew low over the city during the night, anti-aircraft fire crackled in response. People could be heard screaming and shouting outside a hotel where journalists were staying. Pro-Gaddafi loyalists sounded car horns and fired guns, shouting their support for the Libyan leader.
Observers described the bombing as the heaviest attack on the Libyan capital since Nato began its air campaign on March 19 after the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution to protect civilians after Gaddafi responded to the public uprising against his rule by unleashing his military and his militias.
Nato has been escalating and widening the scope of its strikes over the past weeks, increasing the pressure on Gaddafi, while the alliance's members have built closer ties with the rebel movement that has control of the eastern half of Libya.
On Monday, the highest-ranking US diplomat in the Middle East was in the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi in eastern Libya in a show of support.
In a significant new deployment of firepower, France and Britain are bringing attack helicopters to use in the strikes in Libya as soon as possible, French defence minister Gerard Longuet said on Monday.