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News, March 2011
US-Led Alliance Launches Air Attacks on Qadhafi Forces, 64 Libyans Killed
March 20, 2011
U.S. launches missile attack against Libya
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2011 (Xinhua) --
The United States Saturday launched the first Tomahawk missile attacks against the Libyan air defense from warships deployed in the Mediterranean, the Pentagon said.
Speaking in condition of anonymity, a senior U.S. military official said the strikes targeted air defense sites along the Libyan coast. The sites were around Libyan capital Tripoli and western region of Misrata. The official said the strikes were the first stage of the assault that would involve U.S. Navy ships and planes.
The U.S. Navy has three submarines outfitted with Tomahawk missiles in the Mediterranean, as well as two guided-missile destroyers, and two amphibious warships, and a command-and-control ship, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The military also has five surveillance planes in the area.
Pentagon officials said earlier they intended to limit the military's involvement in Libya mainly to help and protect foreign aircraft flying into Libyan air space.
According to the Pentagon, five nations including the United States, France, Britain, Canada and Italy are participating in the strikes, and the coalition has 25 ships in the Mediterranean.
Over 20 Libyan air defense sites struck: Pentagon
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2011 (Xinhua) --
U.S. Defense Department on Saturday said over 20 Libyan air defense sites were struck in Tomahawk cruise missile strikes conducted earlier in the day.
"Over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired earlier in the afternoon from both U.S. and British ships and submarines struck more than 20 integrated air defense systems and other air defense facilities ashore," Vice Admiral William Gortney, director of the Joint Staff told a Pentagon briefing.
Gortney said the attacks were aimed at taking down the " critical nodes" of integrated air defense systems that include surface to air missile sites, early warning sites and key communication nodes.
Specifically, the strikes took down the long-range SA-5 surface- to-air missile systems and the C-2 architecture of the missiles. Gortney said the strikes opens up the airspace as much as possible for the "No-Fly" zone, and would allow Global Hawk surveillance aircraft to fly into Libyan airspace. He said Libya has an old Soviet air defense system but "still good capability."
He said most of the sites struck were near or at the coastal area of Western Libya, and thus taking them out is vital to enforcing the "No-Fly" zone. He said the United States is on the " leading edge" of the military operation, but remains an " international military effort."
Gortney said the operation, codenamed "Odyssey Dawn," is now under the command of U.S. Africa Command. He said he expects the command to be transferred to a coalition command in the coming days.
Editor: Mu Xuequan
Western air strikes kill 64 in Libya -- health official
TRIPOLI, March 20, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Sixty-four people have been killed and 150 others wounded in the air strikes launched by western forces since Saturday, Libya's health officials said on Sunday.
Western warplanes have bombed civilian targets in Tripoli, causing the casualties, the state television reported.
Several fuel tanks were also hit, it said.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi Sunday called the Western attacks as "a crusader war" against the Libyan people, saying that the air strikes were designed to "terrify the Libyan people" and were "terrorist means."
Gaddafi vowed to snatch a victory over Western forces, which began on Saturday to launch air strikes against his troops, saying the western forces would be defeated.
All the Libyan people were united and have been given weapons, "ready for a long war" in the country, he said in a brief audio message carried out by Libya's state television.
The world's major powers, Britain, the United States and France, Saturday started to launch strikes from the air and sea against Gaddafi's forces after the UN Security Council had passed a resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and protect civilians in Libya.
France carried out initial four air strikes, while the U.S. military said 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from American and British ships and submarines at more than 20 Libyan coastal targets.
The western forces also reportedly launched fresh waves of air attacks on Sunday.
Editor: Wang Guanqun
French force launches strike against Gaddafi troops
PARIS, March 19, 2011 (Xinhua) --
French air force has launched strikes against Gaddafi troops, the spokesman of French general staff Thierry Burckhard told local media, hours after the Paris summit agreed on military intervention on Saturday.
The first French strike targeted a vehicle believed to belong to government troops around 05:45 p.m. Paris time (GMT1645), the spokesman said on BFM, a French television channel.
This was the first foreign military action in Libya since the United Nations adopted a resolution Friday authorizing a no-fly zone in Libya and "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at an earlier press conference closing the Paris summit around 05:30 p.m. (GMT1630), confirmed that French warplanes were conducting surveillance missions over Libya.
The Paris summit hosted major decision-makers from the United Nations, the United States, Germany, Britain and other western countries, as well as several leaders from Arab world.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the leaders agreed that Gaddafi had defied the ceasefire call in spite of recent warning of military intervention, and said they are determined to "act coordinately and resolutely" to enforce the UN resolution.
Editor: Mu Xuequan
Norway to send 6 F16 jet fighters for operations against Libya
OSLO, March 19, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Six F16 jet fighters from Norway will take part in the Western-led military operations against Libya after the Norwegian Air Force has been given the go-ahead, the Norwegian news agency NTB reported on Saturday.
The Norwegian Air Force was ordered on Saturday night to have six F16 jet fighters and over 100 pilots and other personnel ready for military operations in Libya, said the report.
The warplanes will take off right at the beginning of next week and will be based in Sicily, Italy.
Attending a summit in Paris on Saturday, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said that Norway will participate in operations aimed at enforcing the UN-backed no-fly zone in Libya.
"Norwegian aircraft will be able to participate in all types of missions, both the enforcement of the no-fly zone and the bombing of military targets on the ground, " Stoltenberg said.
Editor: Mu Xuequan========================================
Gadhafi vows 'long war' after US, allies strike
By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and RYAN LUCAS Associated Press
Mar 20, 2011, 7:58 AM EDT
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) --
Moammar Gadhafi vowed a "long war" against the international military force that struck at his forces with airstrikes and dozens of cruise missiles that shook the Libyan capital early Sunday with the sound of explosions and anti-aircraft fire. In the capital of the rebel-held east, the Libyan leader's guns appeared to go silent.
State television said 48 people died in the U.S. and European strikes, which marked the widest international military effort since the Iraq war and came as the rebels saw a month's worth of gains reversed by Gadhafi's overwhelming firepower.
Rebels said the international strikes also hit an air force complex outside Misrata, the last rebel-held city in Libya's west. Gadhafi forces have bombarded the city from the complex, which houses a base and a military academy.
In Benghazi, the rebel capital and first city to fall to the uprising that began Feb. 15, people said the strikes happened just in time. Libyan government tanks and troops had reached the edges of the city on Saturday.
Mohammed Faraj, 44, a former military man who joined the rebels, held a grenade in each hand as he manned a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city.
"Me and all of Benghazi, we will die before Gadhafi sets foot here again," Faraj told The Associated Press. "Our spirits are very high."
Though the U.S. and Europeans focused their attention on the no-fly zone, the U.N. resolution authorizing the action demanded a ceasefire and authorizes "all necessary means" to protect civilians.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer, said the goals of the international campaign "are limited and it isn't about seeing him go."
In the phone call to state television, Gadhafi said he would not let up on Benghazi and said the government had opened up weapons depots to all Libyans, who were now armed with "automatic weapons, mortars and bombs." State television said Gadhafi's supporters were converging on airports as human shields.
"We promise you a long war," he said.
The U.S. military said 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from American and British ships and submarines at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya's air force. French fighter jets fired the first salvos, carrying out several strikes in the rebel-held east, while British fighter jets also bombarded the North African nation.
President Barack Obama said military action was not his first choice and reiterated that he would not send American ground troops.
"This is not an outcome the U.S. or any of our partners sought," Obama said from Brazil, where he is starting a five-day visit to Latin America. "We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy."
Explosions rocked the coastal cities, including Tripoli, where anti-aircraft guns could be heard firing overnight.
Libyan TV quoted the armed forces command as saying 48 people were killed and 150 wounded in the allied assault. It said most of the casualties were children but gave no more details.
Mullen told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he had seen no reports of civilian casualties as a result of the coalition's military operation.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was "deeply concerned" about civilians and called on all sides work to distinguish between civilians and fighters and allow safe access for humanitarian organizations.
Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya for 41 years, said the international action against his forces was unjustified, calling it "simply a colonial crusader aggression that may ignite another large-scale crusader war."
His regime acted quickly in the run-up to the strikes, sending warplanes, tanks and troops into the eastern city of Benghazi, the rebel capital and first city to fall to the rebellion that began Feb. 15. Then the government attacks appeared to go silent.
Operation Odyssey Dawn, as the allied assault has been dubbed, followed an emergency summit in Paris during which the 22 leaders and top officials agreed to do everything necessary to make Gadhafi respect a U.N. Security Council resolution Thursday calling for the no-fly zone and demanding a cease-fire, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.
Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, director of the Pentagon's Joint Staff, told reporters in Washington that U.S. ships and a British submarine had launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses.
Gortney said the mission has two goals: prevent further attacks by Libyan forces on rebels and civilians, and degrade the Libyan military's ability to contest a no-fly zone.
Defense officials cautioned it was too early to fully gauge the impact of the onslaught. But a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the mission was ongoing, said the Americans felt that Libya's air defenses had been heavily damaged given the precision targeting of the cruise missiles.
Mohammed Ali, a spokesman for the exiled opposition group the Libyan Salvation Front, said the Libyan air force headquarters at the Mateiga air base in eastern Tripoli and the Aviation Academy in Misrata had been targeted.
Switzerland-based Libyan activist Fat'hi al-Warfali said Misrata came under heavy shelling Sunday.
"Misrata is the only city in western Libya not under Gadhafi's control; he is trying hard to change its position," al-Warfala said.
About 20 French fighter jets carried out "several strikes" earlier Saturday, military spokesman Thierry Burkhard told The Associated Press.
"All our planes have returned to base tonight," he said, and denied a Libyan TV report that a French plane had been hit.
He would not elaborate on what was hit or where, but said French forces are focusing on the Benghazi area and U.S. forces are focused in the west.
The U.S. has struck Libya before. Former President Reagan launched U.S. airstrikes on Libya in 1986 after a bombing at a Berlin disco - which the U.S. blamed on Libya - that killed three people, including two American soldiers. The airstrikes killed about 100 people in Libya, including Gadhafi's young adopted daughter at his Tripoli compound.
Lucas reported from Benghazi, Libya. Associated Press writers Ben Hubbard in Cairo; Nicole Winfield in Rome; Jamey Keaten in Paris; Ron DePasquale in New York; and Robert Burns in Washington also contributed to this report.
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