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More NATO strikes hit Libya

By the CNN Wire Staff
Explosions were heard in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on Thursday
Explosions were heard in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on Thursday
  • NEW: More NATO air strikes early Friday and late Thursday
  • Separately, casualties occurred west of Misrata
  • Scores of Libyan refugees are reportedly missing at sea

(CNN) -- New NATO airstrikes early Friday and late Thursday hit Libya's capital and an area to the west, while forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi earlier shelled rebel positions on the front lines to the east in the war-wracked country.

A Libyan government official said NATO strikes on Al-Aziziya city, 55 kilometers west of Tripoli, hit the main police station, killing two policemen. The official, speaking on condition of not being identified, said Hirra town and Twaisha area in the region also were hit.

CNN personnel heard at least 10 explosions that began shortly before midnight.

More NATO strikes hit in Tripoli after midnight, with CNN staff hearing four loud explosions in the city. According to the Libyan government official, the NATO strikes hit a tribal gathering camp near Gadhafi's compound in Bab al-Aziziya. NATO previously has called the location a vehicle storage facility for Gadhafi's forces.

The shelling near Misrata, at the front line of clashes between pro-government forces and rebels seeking to oust Gadhafi, killed one person and injured three, according to witnesses and medical sources at a makeshift clinic in Dafniya, west of Misrata.

Earlier, a Libyan government official said morning NATO airstrikes took place in Tajura, an area in the vicinity of Tripoli, and in Sawani, south of Tripoli. In addition, explosions were heard Thursday in Benghazi, the eastern city where the opposition is headquartered.

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The latest NATO strikes occurred a day after alliance announced its decision to extend its mission in Libya by 90 days, continuing a campaign that began in March.

The resolution approved by the U.N. Security Council in March authorized member states "to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory."

In Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote Friday on a non-binding resolution that demands more information on the U.S.-backed Libya mission from President Barack Obama, as well as a separate measure that calls for the United States to pull out of NATO's Libya operation.

The non-binding resolution was proposed to avoid the possibility that the withdrawal measure could pass and set up an embarrassing situation for the U.S. government and NATO.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposes the withdrawal measure, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

"Secretary Gates believes that for the United States, once committed to a NATO operation, to unilaterally abandon that mission would have enormous and dangerous long-term consequences," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.

The Libyan government has accused NATO of killing hundreds of civilians and wounding thousands more during two months of bombing to support a U.N. resolution calling for protection of the Libyan people from Gadhafi's forces. CNN cannot independently verify the figures.

Many Libyans are fleeing their war-ravaged country for Europe. As many as 270 refugees were missing in the sea after their overcrowded boat encountered bad weather, the Tunisian state-run TAP news agency reported.

The Tunisian coast guard responded to a rescue call regarding the fishing trawler, which became disabled Wednesday night near the Kerkennah Islands. The ship was reportedly taking some 800 refugees from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa, TAP reported.

Lampedusa, the closest Italian island to Africa, has become a destination for tens of thousands of refugees seeking to enter the European Union.

More than 30,000 migrants and refugees from Tunisia and Libya have risked this dangerous journey to Lampedusa since last February.

Also, the Libyan woman whose alleged rape by security forces received worldwide attention has been forcibly deported from Qatar and sent back to Benghazi.

Eman al-Obeidy had been awaiting resettlement as a refugee, and the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees had prepared papers for her departure from Qatar to begin a new life. But Qatari authorities took her and her parents from a hotel in the capital, Doha, and forced them onto a military plane that left Qatar early Thursday, according to U.N. officials.

The United Nations said it had received no explanation for al-Obeidy's sudden deportation and it was urgently seeking an explanation from Qatari authorities. CNN is also attempting to get a response from the Qatari authorities.

Hours before her deportation, al-Obeidy told CNN that armed guards had been posted outside her room, preventing the U.N. refugee office's representative from assisting her. Human Rights Watch says such deportations are illegal under international law.

CNN's Chris Lawrence, Amir Ahmed, Raja Razek, and Nic Robertson contributed to this report

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