NATO on Friday said it was unaware that Moamer Kadhafi was travelling in a convoy struck by alliance aircraft near Sirte the previous day.
"At the time of the strike, NATO did not know that Kadhafi was in the convoy," NATO said in a lengthy statement. "We later learned from open sources and Allied intelligence that Kadhafi was in the convoy."
In a statement dated from its Naples headquarters, the alliance said it had now "had the opportunity to conduct a post strike assessment of yesterday's strike" and could provide the following picture of events.
NATO aircraft struck 11 pro-Kadhafi vehicles at around 1030 GMT on Thursday that were part of a larger group of approximately 75 vehicles manoeuvring in the vicinity of Sirte.
"These armed vehicles were leaving Sirte at high speed and were attempting to force their way around the outskirts of the city. The vehicles were carrying a substantial amount of weapons and ammunition posing a significant threat to the local civilian population. The convoy was engaged by a NATO aircraft to reduce the threat."
The statement went on to say that initially only one vehicle was destroyed, but that disrupted the convoy "and resulted in many vehicles dispersing and changing direction."
A group of approximately 20 vehicles "continued at great speed to proceed in a southerly direction, due west of Sirte, and continuing to pose a significant threat. NATO engaged these vehicles with another air asset."
NATO's post strike assessment "revealed that approximately 10 pro-Kadhafi vehicles were destroyed or damaged," it added.
"At the time of the strike, NATO did not know that Kadhafi was in the convoy. NATO's intervention was conducted solely to reduce the threat towards the civilian population, as required to do under our UN mandate. As a matter of policy, NATO does not target individuals.
"We later learned from open sources and Allied intelligence that Kadhafi was in the convoy and that the strike likely contributed to his capture."
The statement ended by refusing to detail which countries supplied which of the planes involved in the strikes.
by Laurent Banguet
(c) 2011 AFP
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