TRIPOLI, Libya

More than 20 NATO airstrikes bombard targets in Tripoli

NATO warplanes bombarded targets in Tripoli with more than 20 airstrikes early today, striking around Moammar Gadhafi’s residential compound in what appeared to be the heaviest night of bombing of the Libyan capital 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 Gadhafi’s sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said at least three people were killed and dozens wounded in NATO strikes that targeted what he described as buildings used by volunteer units of the Libyan army.

NATO said in a statement that a number of the strikes hit a vehicle storage facility adjacent to Bab al-Aziziya that has been used in supplying regime forces “conducting attacks on civilians.” Bab al-Azizya, which includes a number of military facilities, has been pounded repeatedly by NATO strikes.

KARACHI, Pakistan

Commandos recapture base from six Taliban attackers

Pakistani commandos recaptured a major naval base from Taliban attackers Monday after a bloody and humiliating 18-hour standoff that raised questions about militant infiltration in the security services and the safety of the volatile country’s nuclear warheads.

The unusually brazen assault, which the Taliban said was to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden, was a reminder that the Pakistanis are catching blame from both sides in the aftermath of the May 2 raid by U.S. commandos.

While Americans have accused elements in the Pakistani security services of having sheltered bin Laden in the military town of Abbottabad, the Taliban and al-Qaida fault the army for its level of cooperation with the Americans. It was the third purported revenge strike in Pakistan since bin Laden’s death.

Officials said six heavily armed, black-clad assailants penetrated into the heart of Naval Station Mehran after cutting through wire in a quiet section of its eastern perimeter late Sunday.

The militants destroyed two U.S.-supplied surveillance aircraft and killed at least five navy officers, two paramilitary rangers and three firefighters. Six Americans and 11 Chinese aviation engineers escaped unharmed, authorities said.

KABUL, Afghanistan

Taliban spokesman denies rumors of mullah’s death

A Taliban spokesman Monday vehemently denied a swirl of rumors that the movement’s spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, had died or been killed, even as Afghanistan’s main intelligence service asserted that the reclusive cleric had disappeared from his alleged Pakistan hideout.

Zabiullah Mujahid said by telephone that Omar was alive and well, directing the group’s military campaign in Afghanistan.

Western diplomats in Kabul, together with tribal and intelligence sources in Pakistan, expressed skepticism over Omar’s reported demise.