Air strikes rain down on Gaddafi

Steve Dinneen
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LIBYAN capital Tripoli burned last night after a second wave of air strikes by Allied forces.

Anti-aircraft fire could be heard throughout the night despite Gaddafi’s government claiming to have ordered an unlikely ceasefire.

RAF Tornados and US stealth bombers rained down missiles on Libyan tanks and anti-aircraft munitions, killing dozens of Gaddafi troops.

Loyalists closing in on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi turned and fled after a wave of devastating strikes crippled a battery of tanks.

Smoke was seen billowing out of a building inside Gaddafi’s personal compound in Tripoli, with the dictator’s whereabouts unknown.

US officials insisted they are not specifically targeting the despotic leader, saying a direct attack would go beyond mandates in the United Nations Security Council resolution.

Nato has been unable to agree on action against Gaddafi, with nations including Germany and Turkey raising doubts about the validity of an attack.

David Cameron last night chaired a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergencies committee in Downing Street to discuss the UK’s next move.

Meanwhile the Arab League voted again in favour of the Allied action despite appearing to waver in its support for the attacks, which its chief called “the bombardment of civilians”. At least four Qatari planes joined UK, French and American air forces patrolling the no-fly zone.

Stocks across the Middle East rose despite the raids after Saudi King Abdullah pledged to hand out a further £57bn to his citizens in an attempt to quell simmering tensions in the country.

The move follows a separate £22.8bn decree last month after tensions in neighbouring Bahrain threatened to spill into the country.

The Saudi index rose by more than 4.5 per cent to 6343.8, while Dubai and Qatar both gained 2.6 per cent. Abu Dhabi made a small gain but conflict in Bahrain dragged its stocks 1.6 per cent lower.

Meanwhile, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Sale, who has been in power for more than three decades, sacked his cabinet after continuing protests.

At least 45 people were killed in Yemen on Friday after plain-clothes gunmen fired on protesters in the bloodiest clashes to date.

Brent crude for May delivery rose as high as $116.19 a barrel last night. Crude for April rose as much as $2.12 to $103.19.

Meanwhile Hamas fired 50 rockets into Israel, its heaviest barrage in two years. Israel responded with air strikes.