Libya officials say toddlers among dead from NATO raid

A Libyan soldier stands on top of a destroyed building in the Bab Al-Aziziya district of Tripoli on June 7, 2011 after NATO warplanes pounded the Libyan capital. Libya has accused NATO of killing at least five civilians in an air strike that hit a house in Tripoli in the early morning of June 19, 2011.

NATO says it is investigating Libyan government claims that a bombing raid hit a residential area of Tripoli, killing at leave five civilians including two toddlers.

Libyan government officials said a raid in the early hours of Sunday destroyed a house in Tripoli’s Souk al-Juma residential district. A three-storey house was reduced to rubble at the scene of the alleged raid in Arada, a neighborhood in Souk al-Juma.

Libyan officials took journalists to the house, where rescue teams and bystanders searched for survivors in the wreckage, Agence France-Presse reports. Journalists were then taken to see bodies at a Tripoli hospital. They were shown the bodies of a woman and two toddlers that officials said had been killed in the raid.

“Basically, this is another night of murder, terror and horror in Tripoli caused by NATO," Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters at the hospital, according to Reuters.

Ibrahim said five families were living in the building which was hit, and he feared the death toll would rise.

If the incident is confirmed, it would be a blow to NATO's campaign, which is aimed at supporting rebels fighting the government of Muammar Gaddafi, at a time when the Western alliance is debating how to continue its mission.

(From GlobalPost in Libya: Traces of democracy in Libya's rebel city)

Last week, Russia and China teamed up against the NATO campaign, signing a declaration against air strikes on Libya and calling for political solutions to the crisis.

The incident early Sunday occurred just over 24 hours after the Libyan government accused NATO of specifically targeting civilians in its bombing campaign.

NATO, which has flown more than 11,000 sorties since operations began, says it is looking into the Libyan claims of civilian deaths in Tripoli, the BBC reports.

"NATO deeply regrets any losses of civilian life during [the Libya] operation, and it would be very sorry indeed if a review of this incident concludes it was a NATO operation,” NATO Wing Commander Mike Bracken told the BBC.

"Our pilots and air crew go to great lengths to minimalize civilian risk, but ultimately you can never make that risk zero in a military campaign,” he said.

The credibility of Libyan authorities took a hit two weeks ago after they showed journalists a little girl being treated in hospital and said she had been a victim of a NATO air strike. But a member of the medical staff passed a note to a journalist that said she had actually been injured in a traffic accident.

After four months of civil war, rebels control much of the east of Libya and pockets in the west, including the port city of Misrata. Tripoli remains under government control.