Tripoli: Muammar Gaddafi, vowed to stay on and promised "a long drawn war", as allied forces (American, British and French) bombed Libya on Sunday and jubilant rebels who, only a day before were in danger of being crushed by his forces, now boasted they would bring him down.

In an attack, a cruise missile blasted a building in Gaddafi's residential compound, near his iconic tent. About 300 Gaddafi supporters were in the compound at the time. It was not known where Gaddafi was at the time. Nearly 64 people were killed in the western strikes.

The US military said the bombardment so far — a rain of Tomahawk cruise missiles and precision bombs, including long-range stealth B-2 bombers — had succeeded in heavily degrading Gaddafi's air defenses.

The airstrikes and casualties received protests from Russia, China and India, with Moscow demanding an immediate dialogue to end the "bloodshed".

A TV channel quoted an eyewitness as saying that destroyed military vehicles and at least 14 dead fighters littered the road between Benghazi and Ajdabiya.

In the western city of Misurata, which regime forces have sieged for days, residents said snipers were positioned on rooftops in the centre of town, making people too afraid to walk in the streets.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said that a UN-backed no-fly zone in Libya is "effectively in place".

Meanwhile, a defiant Gaddafi said his country will fight on. "We promise you a long, drawn-out war with no limits," Gaddafi said in a phone call to Libyan state TV on Sunday morning.

He said Western forces had no right to attack Libya, which had done nothing to them. "We will fight inch by inch," he said. The UN Security Council has approved the use of force to protect civilians.

Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam called the attack a "big mistake".

"Believe me, one day you will wake up and you will find out that you were supporting the wrong people and you had made a big mistake in supporting those people," he told Christiane Amanpour for ABC This Week. "It's like the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq. It's another story."

The Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi said nothing should be done that aggravates the worsening situation for the people of Libya, where a revolt erupted in February against the four-decade rule of Gaddafi.

"India views with grave concern the continuing violence, strife and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya. It regrets the air strikes that are taking place," a ministry statement said.
The head of the Arab League also criticised the bombardments.

"What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," said Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, the BBC reported.

The revolt in Libya started in February after the successful toppling of long time rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.


(Agencies)