since the Western alliance launched its air campaign against his forces.
The rapid string of strikes, all within less than half an hour, set off thunderous booms that rattled windows and sent heavy plumes of smoke over the city, including from an area close to Qaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound, The Associated Press reported.
Government Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said at least 3 people were killed and 150 wounded in NATO strikes that targeted what he described as buildings used by volunteer units of the Libyan army.
Mr. Ibrahim said NATO had carried out “between 12 and 18 raids on a barracks of the people’s guard,” volunteer units who back up the army.
“The barracks was empty. Most of the victims were civilians living nearby,” the spokesman added, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).
An AFP journalist said the raids lasting more than half an hour began at around 1:00 am (2300 GMT Monday). They were preceded by a whistling noise and the formation of red balls in the sky, a witness said.
Observers described the bombing as the heaviest attack on the Libyan capital since NATO began its air campaign on March 19 after the passage of a UN Security Council resolution to “protect civilians”.
In another boost to forces fighting to oust the strongman, France said it would provide helicopters for NATO’s air campaign along with Britain, and the EU widened sanctions against Mr. Qaddafi's forces.
“What we want is to better tailor our ability to strike on the ground with ways that allow more accurate hits,” Foreign Minister Alain Juppe of France said, according to Reuters.
In upbeat comments, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the US told a news conference in London on Monday: “We do believe that time is working against Qaddafi, that he cannot re-establish control over the country.”
In Geneva, meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the Libyan war could drag on through the end of the year, and it will need another $53 million if that happens, according to AFP.
The ICRC’s Deputy Head of Operations for North and West Africa told reporters the money would boost its current budget to $86 million to ease problems due to the fighting since the Libyan uprising began February 15.
Georgios Georgantas said the ICRC expects 850,000 people will need its help there by the end of 2011. It has 95 staff in Libya to fulfill its mission of helping people caught up in violence.