We must bomb Gaddafi more, says UK general after tyrant's hideout is found under children's playground

The net was closing on Colonel Gaddafi yesterday as Nato was urged to  intensify its bombing campaign while prosecutors  prepared to hunt him down for war crimes.

General Sir David Richards, the head of the Armed Forces, said the international coalition must be allowed to attack a wider range of targets and ‘tighten the vice’ on Gaddafi.

The general spoke as it was reported that the dictator was using children as human shields by building a playground on top of a command bunker in his capital, Tripoli.

Shield: A carousel in the playground built above one of Col Gaddafi's bunkers in Tripoli

Shield: A carousel in the playground built above one of Col Gaddafi's bunkers in Tripoli

Pressure was also growing on him  as it emerged an international warrant for his arrest could be issued as early as today.

Prosecutors want the International Criminal Court to release warrants for the capture of three Libyan leaders – including Gaddafi – over the murder, torture and brutal repression of anti-government forces. Judges in The Hague will study 74 pages of evidence, including testimony from Gaddafi’s own officials on the atrocities committed by his regime.

Wanted: Gaddafi could be tried for war crimes

Wanted: Gaddafi could be tried for war crimes

An arrest warrant would complicate any plans for him to go into exile. Instead, he would be forced to choose one of two options: fight to the end, or go into hiding.

The Nato alliance has been  bombing Libya for almost two months under a UN mandate authorising the use of force to protect civilians.

There are growing fears the conflict could become mired in a stalemate if the coalition is only allowed to attack targets posing a direct threat to the population, such as tanks and artillery. 

Gen Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, insisted Gaddafi himself was not a target – but it would be ‘within the rules’ if he was killed in a strike on a command and control centre.

‘We now have to tighten the vice to demonstrate to Gaddafi that the game is up and he must go,’ he said. ‘If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power.

‘At present, Nato is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya. But if we want to increase the pressure on Gaddafi’s regime then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets.’

Last night the coalition was investigating Libyan state media reports that up to 11 clerics had been killed in a bombing raid on the eastern oil town of Brega.

In the last week alone, Nato has destroyed 149 military buildings, 24 ammunition dumps and 20 armoured vehicles.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC1’s Politics Show: ‘It’s acceptable to destroy the tanks and military vehicles of Gaddafi if they’re directly threatening the civilian population.

‘It’s legitimate to degrade the command and control and intelligence networks of the regime which are used to control those forces.’

However, the pressure mounting against Gaddafi risked being eased by Baroness Amos, the former Labour minister who is now the UN’s humanitarian chief.

Demanding a halt in the conflict to help civilians, she told Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: ‘They are the ones who are bearing the brunt of this fighting.’

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