TRIPOLI - NATO airstrikes targeted the center of Muammar Qaddafi's seat of power early Monday, destroying a multi-story library and office and badly damaging a reception hall for visiting dignitaries, in what a press official from Qaddafi's government said was an attempt on the Libyan leader's life.
Qaddafi's whereabouts at the time of the attack on his sprawling Bab al-Azizya compound were unclear. A security official at the scene said four people were lightly hurt.
A press official, who asked not to be identified, said 45 people were injured, including 15 who were seriously hurt, and some were still unaccounted for after the attack. There has been no independent verification of those figures as yet.
CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that the strike was part of a pre-planned attack against command and control facilities, and it is extremely unlikely that NATO would know Qaddafi's location that far in advance.
Authorities say between two and four large missiles or bombs exploded in the compound early Monday. The buildings, described as locations where Qaddafi holds meetings, were badly damaged with the roof of one of the structures caved in.
Early in the campaign of airstrikes against Qaddafi, a cruise missile blasted an administration building in Bab al-Azizya last month, knocking down half the three-story building. The compound was also targeted in a U.S. bombing in April 1986, after Washington held Libya responsible for a blast at a Berlin disco that killed two U.S. servicemen.
A multi-story building that guards said served as Qaddafi's library and office was turned into a pile of twisted metal and broken concrete slabs in Monday's attack. Dozens of Qaddafi supporters climbed atop the ruins, raising Libya's green flag and chanting in support of their leader.
A second building, where Qaddafi received visiting dignitaries, suffered blast damage. The main door was blown open, glass shards were scattered across the ground and picture frames were knocked down.
The attack comes a day after Qaddafi's forces unleashed a barrage of shells and rockets at Misrata in an especially bloody weekend, and also falls on the heels of fresh calls for more aggressive NATO action by some American politicians.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said over the weekend: "My recommendation to NATO and the administration is to cut the head of the snake off, go to Tripoli, start bombing Qaddafi's inner circle, their compounds, their military headquarters in Tripoli."
Qaddafi's forces had unleashed a barrage of shells and rockets at Misrata on Sunday in an especially bloody weekend, countering Libyan government claims that the army was holding its fire into the western city.
Because of the escalating violence in Misrata, which doctors say killed 32 and wounded dozens in two days, CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports that ships taking civilians away from the besieged city have become an all-important lifeline. Food and medicine have become scarce in the city, and the only way for most people to help themselves is to leave.
Rebels said Sunday they drove the last pro-government forces from the center of Libya's third-largest city. Morale among Qaddafi's troops fighting in Misrata has collapsed, with some abandoning their posts, said one captured Libyan soldier.
The battle for Misrata, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the past two months, has become the focal point of Libya's armed rebellion against Qaddafi since fighting elsewhere is deadlocked.