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Around 66 American jets, some of them flying from British bases launched an attack at around 0100hrs on Monday.
The White House spokesman, Larry Speakes, has said that the strike was directed at key military sites but reports suggest that missiles also hit Bin Ashur, a densely populated suburb in the capital.
Colonel Muamar Gaddafi residential compound took a direct hit that killed Hanna Gaddafi, the adopted baby daughter of the Libyan leader.
President Reagan has justified the attacks by accusing Libya of direct responsibility for terrorism aimed at America, such as the bombing of La Belle discoteque in West Berlin 10 days ago.
President Reagan made a TV address to the American people two hours after the attack.
In it he said : "When our citizens are attacked or abused anywhere in the world on the direct orders of hostile regimes, we will respond so long as I'm in this office."
He argued that America was exercising its right to self defence as defined by Article 51 of the UN charter.
The presidential spokesman, Larry Speakes, said, "US forces have executed a series of carefully planned air strikes against terrorist targets in Libya."
He added: "Every effort has been made to avoid hitting civilian targets."
The attacks began soon after an increase in coded radio traffic between US ships and planes off the Libyan coast had been noticed.
The fighter jets appear to have been both carrier based aircraft, operating in the Mediterranean and British based bombers which would have refuelled in mid air.
The Americans hit the harbour's naval academy, the capital's military airport and army barracks.
Tripoli's embassy area and residential districts also suffered extensive damage.
The Tripoli central hospital and two other medical centres say they have treated hundreds of injured people, including a number of Greeks, Italians and Yugoslavs.
Mobs of angry survivors have taken to the streets shouting: "Down, down USA. Death to all Americans."
There are also fears that Britain may be subject to terrorist attacks because some of its involvement in the raids.
The Syrian based terrorist group, Arab Revolutionary Cells, has announced on Lebanese radio that it will target both British and American interests.
President Reagan said he had irrefutable evidence that Libya was responsible for the West Berlin night club bombing on 5 April 1986 which killed two American servicemen and a Turkish woman.
The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, justified Britain's involvement in the campaign by supporting America's right to self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
The extremist group Arab Revolutionary Cells said it murdered two British and one American hostage in Lebanon on 17 April 1986, in retaliation for the US attack.
Fifteen years after the air raids, a German court ruled that the Libyan secret service was responsible for the West Berlin bomb attack.
In September 2004, Libya agreed to pay $35m to 150 non-US victims of the 1986 Berlin disco bomb.
Libya said it will not pay for US victims until Washington compensates it for the lives and property lost in the subsequent US air strikes on Libya.
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