NATO air strikes killed 85 villagers near the city of Zliten in western Libya, a government spokesman said on Tuesday, in what he branded a “massacre” of civilians.
The village of Majer, 10 kilometres (six miles) south of Zliten, was attacked late on Monday to “allow rebel fighters to enter” the government-held city from the south, Mussa Ibrahim told reporters on a guided visit.
“After the first three bombs dropped at around 11:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Monday, many residents of the area ran to the bombed houses to try to save their loved ones. Three more bombs struck,” he said.
Thirty-three children, 32 women and 20 men from 12 families were killed in the “massacre,” said Mussa.
Rebels fighting around Zliten, 120 kilometres to the east of Tripoli, said on Monday they were running low on ammunition as they struggled to hold off an assault by loyalist forces.
Abdul Wahab Melitan, a rebel spokesman in the nearby port city of Misrata, said forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi had launched an assault on their positions on Sunday in the Souk Telat area.
Four rebel fighters had since been killed and 40 wounded, he said.
The rebels, advancing from Misrata, a week ago punched into the centre of Zliten, sparking fierce clashes. But they later pulled back to the edge of the city of 200,000 inhabitants.
NATO in Brussels said alliance warplanes hit eight targets in the Zliten area on Sunday — four command and control nodes, one military facility, a weapons dump, an anti-tank weapon and a multiple rocket launcher.
It was yet to give an update on Monday’s air raids.