Airstrikes Thursday in NATO’s campaign against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces killed at least four Libyan rebels in a “friendly fire” accident, the second in a week. After a bit of foot-dragging by the British deputy commander of the air campaign, NATO apologized to the rebels. —JCL
The New York Times:
NATO acknowledged on Friday that its warplanes had hit a rebel convoy the day before, killing at least four people, and after some confusion eventually apologized for the accident.
At a news conference in Naples, where NATO has its operational headquarters, Rear Adm. Russell Harding, the British deputy commander of the air campaign, said the alliance had not been forewarned — as the rebels’ commander, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, contended on Thursday — that the rebels were using tanks at the time the attack took place.
The military movements in the area where the attack took place were also “very fluid” at the time, [Harding] said, according to news reports, with vehicles going backward and forward.
“I am not apologizing,” he said of the incident, the second case of friendly-fire deaths in a week. “The situation on the ground was extremely fluid and remains extremely fluid, and until yesterday we did not have information” that the rebels planned to deploy tanks.
But later the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, expressed his remorse over the mix-up. “This is a very unfortunate incident,” he said at NATO headquarters in Brussels. “And I strongly regret the loss of life.”
Rear Adm. Russell Harding, deputy commander of the NATO air campaign in Libya, at a news conference in Naples.