Tag Archives: Muammar al-Gaddafi

Libya’s transitional leader declares liberation, sets Islamist tone for future

By The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

BENGHAZI, LibyaLibya‘s transitional leader declared his country’s liberation on Sunday, three days after the hated dictator Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed.

He called on Libyans to show “patience, honesty and tolerance” and eschew hatred as they embark on rebuilding the country at the end of an 8-month civil war.

The transitional government leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil set out a vision for the post-Gadhafi future with an Islamist tint, saying that Islamic Sharia law would be the “basic source” of legislation in the country and that existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified. In a gesture that showed his own piety, he urged Libyans not to express their joy by firing in the air, but rather to chant “Allahu Akbar,” or God is Great. He then stepped aside and knelt to offer a brief prayer of thanks.

“This revolution was looked after by God to achieve victory,” he told the crowd at the declaration ceremony in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising against Gadhafi began. He thanked those who fell in the fight against Gadhafi’s forces. “This revolution began peacefully to demand the minimum of legitimate rights, but it was met by excessive violence.”

Abdul-Jalil said new banks would be set up to follow the Islamic banking system, which bans charging interest. For the time being, he said interest would be cancelled from any personal loans already taken out less than 10,000 Libyan dinars (about $7,500).

He also announced that all military personnel and civilians who have taken part in the fight against Gadhafi would be promoted to the rank above their existing one. He said a package of perks would later be announced for all fighters.

“Thank You, thank you to the fighters who achieved victory, both civilians and military,” he said. He also paid tribute to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation alliance led by Saudi Arabia, The Arab League and the European Union. NATO, which aided the anti-Gadhafi fighters with airstrikes, performed its task with “efficiency and professionalism.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyas-transitional-leader-declares-liberation-sets-islamist-tone-163539334.html


NATO chief says alliance will finish job in Libya

By Nick Carey | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – NATO‘s chief on Thursday slapped down a call from Italy for a suspension of hostilities in Libya and tried to reassure wavering members of the Western coalition that Muammar Gaddafi can be beaten.

Italy’s ceasefire call exposed the strain on the NATO alliance, nearly 14 weeks into a bombing campaign that has so far failed to dislodge Gaddafi but is causing mounting concerns about its financial cost and about civilian casualties.

Highlighting the wider consequences of the war in the North African oil-producer, oil-consuming nations announced a rare move to release reserves from oil stockpiles to fill the gap left by disruption to Libyan output.

Asked about Italy’s ceasefire call, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a newspaper interview: “No, on the contrary. We shall continue and see it through to the end.”

“The allies are committed to making the necessary effort for a sustained operation,” he told France’s Le Figaro newspaper.

“We will take the time needed until the military objective is reached: end all attacks against Libyan civilians, return armed forces to barracks and freedom of movement for humanitarian aid.”

NATO says it is operating under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces as he tries to crush an uprising against his 41-year rule. Gaddafi says NATO’s real aim is to steal the country’s plentiful oil.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Libyan leader’s ability to hold out was being steadily worn down, so now was not the moment to relax the pressure on him.

“Time is on our side, time is not on the side of Colonel Gaddafi,” Cameron said on a visit to the Czech capital. “So we need to be patient and persistent.”

NATO said it had delivered a blow to Gaddafi forces near Zlitan, a town about 170 km (105 miles) east of Tripoli, with an air and naval strike on Wednesday that took out 13 armed vehicles, an armored personnel carrier and a rocket launcher.

NATO CRACKS

At the weekend, NATO acknowledged for the first time in the campaign that it may have caused multiple civilian casualties, when an air strike hit a house in Tripoli, prompting a vitriolic attack from Gaddafi in an audio speech broadcast late Wednesday.

“You said, ‘We hit our targets with precision’, you murderers!” he said. “One day we will respond to you likewise and your homes will be legitimate targets.”

Libyan officials in Tripoli took reporters to the central Green Square where a crowd of around 200 people, most of them women waving green flags or pictures of Gaddafi, had gathered to demonstrate their support.

“We love our leader. We want him to stay in this country,” said one woman, who gave her name as Budur.

There was though a note of discord. As the reporters were guided back to their bus by government minders, a man shouted out of his car window: “Gaddafi go down!”

FORCES STRETCHED

Time is now a crucial factor for both sides in the conflict, with unity in the NATO-led coalition likely to come under more strain and Gaddafi’s ability to resist being steadily worn down by sanctions, air strikes and fighting with rebels.

In Paris, the 28-member International Energy Agency said it would release 60 million barrels a day over an initial 30 days to fill the gap left by the disruption to Libya’s output.

Libya was exporting about 1.2 million bpd before the rebellion that brought its oil industry to a standstill.

“This supply disruption has been underway for some time and its effect has become more pronounced as it has continued,” said the IEA. “Greater tightness in the oil market threatens to undermine the fragile global economic recovery.”

In a sign that Gaddafi’s military is being stretched, a Reuters photographer in rebel-held Al Qalaa saw about 50 navy servicemen being held prisoner in a police station.

They said their commanders had told them they were being deployed to protect the region from attack by al Qaeda, and they were later captured by the rebels.

The conflict has effectively partitioned Libya. The eastern third around the city of Benghazi is in rebels hands while the West — apart from some rebel enclaves — is controlled by Gaddafi. There is almost no movement between the two.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had begun an operation to transfer people back home who had been trapped on the wrong side of the civil war divide.

It said a ship would take several hundred from Tripoli to Benghazi, and about 110 were due to travel the other way.

“Most of the people we are transferring are Libyans who were working away from their home towns or visiting relatives or friends when the conflict broke out,” said Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Tripoli.

“They are very eager to rejoin their families.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/nato-chief-tries-repair-cracks-over-libya-095345120.html


In ‘Gun’ we Trust

Libyan regime says it is arming civilians, teaching them how to shoot

By Karin Laub, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

GAZAHIYA, Libya – A 22-year-old university student balanced an unloaded grenade launcher on his shoulder, grunted loudly in place of an explosion as he pulled the trigger, then handed the weapon to the next man.

The military drill on the lawn of a clinic in a remote village in government-controlled western Libya was part of what Moammar Gadhafi‘s regime has tried to portray as a large-scale arming and training of the home front. Foreign reporters on a government tour were also taken to a school where a couple of teenage boys fired Kalashnikov rifles in the air.

The scenes appeared to have been hastily arranged. Men at a desert shooting range — barrels set up as targets on a rocky plain — said they had been bused to the site for the first time that day. A few dozen middle school boys were participating in a military rally in their school yard and some said they had received their fatigues just a day earlier.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said last week that hundreds of thousands of rifles were being distributed to civilians to defend the home front, a claim that is impossible to verify because of tight restrictions on journalists in western Libya. About a dozen Libyans interviewed in three different areas recently said they had been handed Kalashnikovs from municipal weapons depots.

The reports that the government was arming supporters to suppress anti-regime demonstrations in the capital Tripoli first emerged at the start of the uprising against Gadhafi in mid-February. The government claims it is arming people to defend against foreign ground troops — even though there are none in western Libya — rather than to fight fellow Libyans.

However, the attempt to show civilians training with weapons could be a sign that Gadhafi loyalists are growing more nervous about their grip on western Libya. There has been persistent fighting in two major pockets of rebel resistance in that part of the country, including the coastal city of Misrata where rebels have held out during a two-month onslaught.

Those training Wednesday in the Tarhouna district, 70 kilometres (45 miles) southeast of the capital of Tripoli, seemed unsure of who their enemy was. Some struggled with whether they would shoot at fellow Libyans who have risen up against Gadhafi and now control the east of the country.

Volunteers said they had been told they must defend their homes against NATO ground troops, but would not be asked to go to the front. Some dismissed the rebels as al-Qaida-led ex-convicts or foreigners, repeating government propaganda that has tried to paint the rebels as Islamic extremists.

High school student Sanna Kanouni, 16, said she was learning how to handle a rifle to repel the “barbarian, colonial crusader aggression.” Asked what she knew about the rebels in the east, she said they are drug-taking foreigners, not Libyans — mimicking a line also put out by the government.

In her crammed classroom a lesson in taking apart a Kalashnikov was under way. Kanouni briefly fumbled with the weapons parts, gave up and pumped her fist to the pro-Gadhafi chants of her classmates.

Outside the high school, students posed with Kalashnikovs, some of them firing in the air.

High school students in Libya have traditionally received some weapons training, students and teachers at the school said, though they disagreed on the starting age of military training and on what exactly was involved.

At an elementary and middle school in the nearby village of Sagya, two dozen boys who appeared to be around 11 or 12 years old and were dressed in military fatigues participated in a pro-Gadhafi rally on the school grounds.

They briefly marched and stood at attention. Their principal, Abdel Razek Mahmoudi, said the boys had started marching drills two weeks ago, but were not touching guns.

However, 11-year-old Abdullah Rajab Iyad, said he’d been allowed to handle a gun earlier that day. The principal, overhearing the conversation, abruptly led the boy away.

Men in their 20s fired wildly into the air in the school yard, from amid the children. The program ended with a competition among about 20 men to see who was fastest at taking apart a Kalashnikov and putting it back together again.

Abdel Monem al-Muftah, who oversees the training of civilians in Tarhouna, said about 200 people each have been trained at 15 sites, ranging in age from 18 to 70.

On the clinic grounds in Gazahiya, several dozen men sat in circles, each group learning about a different weapon. The training seemed basic at best.

Mohammed Jumma, a 22-year-old computer science student, was handed a rocket-propelled grenade launcher without ammunition. The instructor told him to make sure no one was behind him before he fired — the weapon sends out a powerful backblast. He then corrected Jumma’s stance, left foot forward if the launcher is on the right shoulder.

Jumma pulled the trigger. The anticlimactic click that followed was not deemed satisfying, and he was asked to fire again, this time with a loud yell, before the launcher was handed to the next in line.

Moammar al-Ghrara, a 37-year-old Arabic teacher, said he would command a group of 40 men if the time came to defend the neighbourhood. Al-Ghrara refused to entertain the thought that the rebels were ordinary Libyans.

When pressed, he said he would shoot at anyone, including Libyans, if they attacked his area.

The heavy weapons were displayed at the desert shooting range. Four men in fatigues crouching on the ground fired heavy machine-guns toward barrels. Others fired off grenade launchers and an anti-aircraft gun, to the chants of “Allahu Akbar.”

Omar Musbah Omar, 23, said he has been training off and on for the past month, and that he and each of his four brothers had been given Kalashnikovs to keep at home. He said he would never raise a weapon against a fellow Libyan.

But, he said: “We’re ready for NATO.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-regime-says-arming-civilians-teaching-them-shoot-183128927.html


France eyes new military targets in Libya

By Elizabeth Pineau and Catherine Bremer | Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) – France is pushing for NATO approval to extend military strikes on Muammar Gaddafi‘s army to strategic logistical targets, to try to break a deadlock in Libya‘s civil war as the civilian death toll mounts.

The push comes as France and Britain, which are leading the campaign in Libya, struggle to get coalition partners to step up participation or contribute more hardware, despite pleas from rebels that civilians are dying in the besieged city of Misrata.

The United States and European NATO allies rebuffed French and British calls on Thursday to contribute more actively to ground strikes in Libya, and military sources say neither Paris nor London plan to deploy any extra aircraft.

France used military helicopters to fire on armored vehicles in its recent intervention in Ivory Coast, which sped up the ouster of former president Laurent Gbagbo.

But it has made no move to deploy them in Libya, where they would make easy targets for Gaddafi’s army.

France’s two amphibious assault helicopter carriers are currently on base in the port of Toulon and in the Indian Ocean, the Navy says.

While the focus will remain on air strikes from fighter jets, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said on Friday their target should move from Gaddafi’s military bases to logistics and decision centres.

Longuet told LCI television strikes should now focus on “military decision centres in Libya or on logistics depots which today are being spared.” A French military source said the next step was to try and get an agreement on this.

“We have already hit military targets. We want to hit more and more strategic targets,” the source said. “We have hit quite a few tanks and planes, we can continue on other targets. The idea is to weaken Gaddafi by hitting harder and harder … to strike where it hurts most but avoiding collateral damage.”

“Now we need the coalition countries to agree on other targets,” the source added.

STRIKE ASSETS

NATO forces have around 195 aircraft, including fighter jets and refueling tankers, at their disposal for Libya operations, around half of which have been supplied by France and Britain.

France has roughly 50 combat planes deployed in the operation, based at its Solenzara air base in Corsica and on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

Officials say seven of the 28 NATO countries — Britain, France, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the United States — have been taking part in air strikes. Others are enforcing the no-fly zone without bombing or supporting it in other ways.

Douglas Barrie, a military aviation expert at London’s International Institute for Security Studies, said attack helicopters and armed unmanned aircraft, or drones, could be of use in Libya.

“The trouble is, most available drones are being used in Afghanistan and attack helicopters would be a potential escalation as they are vulnerable to ground fire from small arms and MANPADS (man portable air defense systems),” he said.

The French military source said France did not need to bring in more aircraft as the planes and missiles it has to hand would be adequate for small logistical targets. A British Ministry of Defense source said Britain did not plan to add planes.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain was talking to other countries about providing more strike aircraft.

“Certainly we are making a bit of progress on that and so I’m hopeful there will be more strike assets made available to NATO,” he said.

Longuet said targeting strategic military sites could avoid the coalition having to take the decision to arm the rebels.

“Our goal is not to organize a front, it’s that Gaddafi’s troops go back to their barracks,” he said.

A member of the opposition transition council told Reuters on Thursday the West must ramp up its operations and consider arming the rebels or sending in troops to fight Gaddafi’s forces.

Suliman Fortea said during a brief visit to Paris that arms were getting through to the rebels, and defectors from Gaddafi’s army were training them but more help was needed.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/france-eyes-military-targets-libya-20110415-094723-463.html


Pro-Gadhafi forces shell western city of Misrata for hours while NATO officials meet

By Karin Laub,Maggie Michael, The Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya – Troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi unleashed heavy shelling Friday on Misrata, pushing troops and tanks into the rebel-held western city, a witness said, while NATO officials struggled to overcome differences over its mission to dislodge the defiant Libyan leader.

Elsewhere in Libya, NATO warplanes struck Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte in the east, Libyan TV said. In the capital of Tripoli, there were reports of heightened security measures in an apparent attempt to prevent anti-government protests.

A helicopter circled over Misrata for several hours, apparently spotting targets for artillery in Libya’s third-largest city, in defiance of the NATO-enforced no-fly zone. Forces bombarded the city with fire from tanks, artillery and rockets.

Eight bodies of civilians were taken to a hospital but there are many causalities among the fighters who took guns and arms to defend their city, said the resident, who spoke on condition he be identified only by his given name, Abdel-Salam, for fear of retaliation.

The assault by Gadhafi forces was the heaviest in the 50-day-old siege of Misrata — the only major remaining rebel stronghold in western Libya.

His troops have continued to attack rebel positions as part of a deadlocked civil war sparked two months ago by anti-government protests. The international community stepped into the conflict a month ago, with NATO unleashing airstrikes on Gadhafi-linked military targets.

The latest attacks followed new shows of defiance by Gadhafi on Thursday and by his daughter, Aisha, who rallied a crowd early Friday from a balcony at her father’s compound that was hit by U.S. warplanes 25 years ago.

Libyan TV said airstrikes targeted Sirte, although it did not provide details. Explosions were also heard from what appeared to be NATO strikes against Gadhafi’s forces near the coastal town of Brega.

Gadhafi controls the west of the country, while the rebels hold much of the east, with the front shifting back and forth.

In the capital of Tripoli, participants in a Facebook group said snipers were deployed on rooftops in the Tajoura neighbourhood and that security was tight around mosques.

On Thursday, Al-Sadek al-Ghariani, a top Muslim cleric in Libya, said in a video posted on Facebook that it was a religious duty to join protests on Friday. In February, he issued two fatwas calling for anti-Gadhafi protests and then went into hiding. Gadhafi forces apparently are trying to find him.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/her-fathers-compound-bombed-25-years-ago-gadhafis-20110414-230254-105.html


US eyes more firepower against Gadhafi’s forces; Obama says pressure rising on Libyan leader

By Richard Lardner, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON – Even after a week of U.S.-led air strikes, forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi remain a potent threat to civilians, say Pentagon officials who are considering expanding the firepower and airborne surveillance systems in the military campaign.

“Every day, the pressure on Gadhafi and his regime is increasing,” President Barack Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, aired just after Libyan rebels regained control of the eastern city of Ajdabiya. It was the first major turnaround in an uprising that once appeared on the verge of defeat.

Obama also readied for a speech to the nation Monday evening to explain his decision-making on Libya to a public weary of a decade of war.

Lawmakers from both parties have complained that the president has not sought their input about the U.S. role in Libya or stated clearly the U.S. goals and exit strategy.

“The United States should not and cannot intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world,” Obama said in the speech Saturday. But with Gadhafi threatening “a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region … it’s in our national interest to act. And it’s our responsibility. This is one of those times.”

Among the weapons under consideration for use in Libya is the Air Force’s AC-130 gunship, armed with cannons that shoot from the side doors. Other possibilities are helicopters and drones that fly lower and slower and can spot more than fast-moving jet fighters.

Obama said in an email statement Saturday that “we are now handing over control of the no-fly zone to our NATO allies and partners, including Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.”

In light of that goal, the discussion of adding weapons to step up the assault on Gadhafi’s ground troops reflects the challenges in hitting the right targets.

U.S.-led forces began missile strikes last Saturday to establish a no-fly zone and prevent Gadhafi from attacking his own people.

American officials have said they won’t drop bombs in cities to avoid killing or wounding civilians — a central pillar of the operation. Yet they want to hit the enemy in contested urban areas.

“The difficulty in identifying friend from foe anywhere is always a difficult challenge,” Navy Vice Adm. William Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday at the Pentagon. The difficulty in distinguishing “friend from foe inside an urban environment is magnified significantly.”

Army Gen. Carter Ham, the U.S. officer in charge of the overall international mission, told The Associated Press, the focus is on disrupting the communications and supply lines that allow Gadhafi’s forces to keep fighting in the contested cities.

Ham said in a telephone interview from his U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, that the U.S. expected NATO would take command of the no-fly zone mission on Sunday, with a Canadian three-star general, Charles Bouchard, in charge. Bouchard would report to an American admiral, Samuel Locklear, in Locklear’s role as commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, he said.

But with the Obama administration eager to take a back seat in the Libya campaign, it is still when — or even if — the U.S. military’s Africa Command would shift the lead role in attacking Libyan ground targets to NATO. U.S officials say the alliance is finalizing the details of the transfer this weekend.

Obama spoke with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders about Libya on Friday afternoon. Republican Sen. John McCain said he was concerned that the current military action might not be enough force Gadhafi from power, his spokeswoman said.

Brooke Buchanan said McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, supports the military intervention but fears it could lead to a stalemate that leaves Gadhafi’s government in place.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/us-eyes-more-firepower-against-gadhafis-forces-obama-20110326-074523-714.html

 


Western strike hits Gaddafi compound

By Maria Golovnina and Michael Georgy | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Western forces launched a second wave of air strikes on Libya overnight and officials in Tripoli said a missile intended to kill Muammar Gaddafi had destroyed a building in his fortified compound.

“It was a barbaric bombing,” said government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, showing pieces of shrapnel that he said came from the missile. “This contradicts American and Western (statements) … that it is not their target to attack this place.”

There was no comment on the strike from attacking forces.

The first air strikes on Saturday halted the advance of Gaddafi’s forces on the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi and had targeted Libya’s air defences in order to let Western warplanes patrol the skies of this oil-producing north African desert state.

The second wave of Western air strikes also hit Gaddafi’s troops around Ajdabiyah, a strategic town in the barren, scrub of east Libya that rebels aim to retake and where their fighters said they need more help to take the fight to the enemy.

“If we don’t get more help from the West, Gaddafi’s forces will eat us alive,” rebel fighter Nouh Musmari told Reuters.

The U.N.-mandated intervention to protect civilians caught up in a one-month-old revolt against Gaddafi drew criticism from Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who questioned the need for a heavy bombardment, which he said had killed many civilians.

Moussa said on Monday however that the League respected the U.N. resolution while stressing a need to protect civilians.

The United States, carrying out the air strikes in a coalition with Britain, France, Italy and Canada among others, said the campaign was working and dismissed a ceasefire announcement by the Libyan military on Sunday evening.

STRIKES “FOR A LITTLE WHILE”

Henri Guaino, one of French President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s closest aides, said the strikes were not aimed at ousting the autocrat who has ruled Libya for 41 years but told RMC radio that they were likely to last “a little while”.

Britain’s Defence Ministry said one of its submarines had again fired Tomahawk cruise missiles as part of a second wave of attacks to enforce the U.N. resolution but that one air force mission was called off because of civilians in the target area.

“As the RAF GR4 Tornados approached the target, further information came to light … As a result the decision was taken not to launch weapons,” a ministry spokesman said, adding this underlined the British commitment to protecting civilians.

The Libyan government urged people in towns, cities and tribes to join a march from Tripoli to Benghazi “so we could exchange condolences, … announce forgiveness … and then we could sit down as one family …”

The intervention in Libya is the biggest against an Arab country since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Withdrawal of Arab support would make it much harder to pursue what some defence analysts say could in any case be a difficult, open-ended campaign with an uncertain outcome.

Asked about Moussa’s concerns about the conduct of the campaign, Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary at the U.S. Department for Defense, told the BBC:

“I think that may be the case that people don’t understand the military dimensions of what was required to establish the no-fly zone but I can tell you that we continue to have … statements of support from a number of Arab countries.”

Italy said it had warplanes in the air, after U.S. and British warships and submarines launched 110 Tomahawk missiles on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, director of the U.S. military’s Joint Staff, told reporters there had been no new Libyan air activity or radar emissions, but a significant decrease in Libyan air surveillance, since strikes began Saturday.

BENGHAZI NOT FREE FROM THREAT

Benghazi was not yet free from threat, said Gortney, but Gaddafi forces in the area were in distress and “suffering from isolation and confusion” after the air assaults.

Late on Sunday night, Libyan officials took Western reporters to Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, a sprawling complex that houses his private quarters as well as military barracks, anti-aircraft batteries and other installations, to see what they said was the site of a missile attack two hours earlier.

A short walk from a brightly lit tent where Gaddafi receives his guests, the three-storey building stood in ruins, and a circular hole was visible on its gutted facade. The United States says it does not have Gaddafi on its target list.

A Libyan military spokesman announced a new ceasefire on Sunday, saying that “the Libyan armed forces … have issued a command to all military units to safeguard an immediate ceasefire from 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) this evening”.

Both before and after he spoke, heavy anti-aircraft gunfire boomed above central Tripoli.

Outside Benghazi, smouldering, shattered tanks and troop carriers from what had been Gaddafi’s advancing forces littered the main road. The charred bodies of at least 14 government soldiers lay scattered in the desert.

But with Gaddafi having vowed to fight to the death, there were fears his troops might try to force their way into cities, seeking shelter from air attacks among the civilian population.

In central Benghazi, sporadic explosions and heavy exchanges of gunfire could be heard in the streets late on Sunday evening. A Reuters witness said the firing lasted about 40 minutes.

In Misrata, the last rebel-held city in western Libya, a rebel spokesman said pro-Gaddafi forces were bringing in civilians from nearby towns to use as human shields and that those forces killed seven people there on Sunday.

Residents said water supplies were cut off and Libyan troops had encircled the town.

A Libyan government health official said 64 people were killed by Western bombardment on Saturday and Sunday, but it was impossible to verify the report independently.

ARAB SUPPORT CRUCIAL

Arab support for a no-fly zone provided crucial underpinning for the passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution last week that paved the way for Western action to stop Gaddafi killing civilians as he fights an uprising against his 41-year rule.

The U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the no-fly zone was now in place.

But Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the United States would not have a “pre-eminent role” in maintaining it, and expected to turn over “primary responsibility” within days, perhaps to Britain or France.

U.S. officials, eager to avoid similarities to the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, have been playing down Washington’s role and emphasising that overthrowing or killing Gaddafi is not the goal of the attacks on Libya.

Mullen told CBS television the endgame of the campaign was “very uncertain” and acknowledged it could end in a stalemate.

Gates told reporters: “I think this is basically going to have to be resolved by the Libyans themselves.”

In Brussels, NATO envoys failed to agree on any alliance involvement in enforcing the no-fly zone.

NATO members Turkey and Germany have spoken out against the zone, and diplomats said France had argued against involvement by an alliance whose reputation in the Arab world had been tainted by its involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

French planes fired the first shots of the intervention on Saturday, destroying tanks and armoured vehicles near Benghazi.

France sent an aircraft carrier towards Libya and its planes were over the country again on Sunday, defence officials said. Britain said its planes had targeted Libya’s air defences, mainly around the capital Tripoli.

Other countries, including Qatar, also dispatched aircraft to participate in the operation, U.S. officials said.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/western-powers-strike-libya-second-night-20110320-192228-749.html

 

 


Libya declares new ceasefire amid fresh Western attacks

By Imed Lamloum | AFP News

Explosions rocked Tripoli as Western forces staged fresh air strikes to halt Moamer Kadhafi‘s attacks on civilians, with one raid flattening a building in the strongman’s heavily-fortified residence.

As warplanes took off from Italian bases and anti-aircraft guns roared in the Libyan capital, Kadhafi’s army announced a new ceasefire Sunday, saying it was heeding an African Union call for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

But the United States accused Tripoli of lying about the ceasefire or breaching it immediately.

And United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a swift reaction: “I sincerely hope and urge the Libyan authorities to keep their word.

“They have been continuing to attack the civilian population. This (offer) has to be verified and tested,” he said.

An administrative building in Kadhafi’s residential complex in Tripoli was flattened, an AFP journalist saw. The compound is surrounded by anti-aircraft guns.

The building is about about 50 metres (165 feet) from the tent where Kadhafi generally meets guests. It was hit by a missile, Libyan spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told journalists, who were taken to the site by bus.

“This was a barbaric bombing which could have hit hundreds of civilians gathered at the residence of Moamer Kadhafi about 400 metres away from the building which was hit,” Ibrahim said.

He denounced the “contradictions in Western discourses”, saying: “Western countries say they want to protect civilians while they bomb the residence knowing there are civilians inside.”

But the US denied targeting the residence or Kadhafi himself.

“I can guarantee he’s not on the targeting list. We’re not targeting his residence,” vice admiral Bill Gortney told reporters at a Pentagon press conference.

However, the strike destroyed the Libyan leader’s “command and control capability,” a coalition official told AFP Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The coalition is actively enforcing UNSCR (UN Security Council Resolution) 1973, and that in keeping with that mission, we continue to strike those targets which pose a direct threat to the Libyan people and to our ability to implement the no-fly zone,” the official said.

Kadhafi’s regime had declared a ceasefire on Friday after UN Security Council resolution 1973 authorised any necessary measures, including a no-fly zone, to stop his forces harming civilians in the fight against the rebels.

But his troops continued attacking the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, sparking action by US, British and French forces from Saturday in line with the resolution.

In the West’s biggest intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, US warships and a British submarine fired more than 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya late on Saturday, US military officials said.

The first round of strikes by aircraft and cruise missiles prompted a defiant Kadhafi to warn of a long war in the Mediterranean “battlefield”.

Tripoli reported dozens of deaths, but Pentagon spokesman Gortney said: “There is no indication of any civilian casualties.”

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday the United States would not play a “preeminent role” in military action against Libya, with other countries soon taking the lead.

British forces on Sunday took part in a “co-ordinated strike against Libyan air defence systems” for a second straight day, the defence ministry said.

“For a second time, the UK has launched guided Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) from a Trafalgar Class submarine in the Mediterranean as part of a coordinated coalition plan to enforce the (UN) resolution,” a statement said.

London said the first day of air and sea strikes had been “very successful”.

Meanwhile, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sailed from Toulon on the 48-hour voyage to Libyan waters.

The US military said the first stage of coalition raids had been “successful”, with Kadhafi’s offensive on Benghazi stopped in its tracks.

Gortney told reporters the strikes had succeeded in “significantly degrading” Libyan air defences, and a no-fly zone was now effectively in place over the country.

Earlier, dissenting voices in the wake of the first raids in Operation Odyssey Dawn became apparent, including from the Arab League which had backed the no-fly zone.

“What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians,” League Secretary General Amr Mussa told reporters.

“From the start we requested only that a no-fly zone be set up to protect Libyan civilians and avert any other developments or additional measures.”

Mussa said preparations were now under way for an emergency meeting of the 22-member Arab League.

Russia, which abstained in Thursday’s Security Council vote instead of using its veto, called for an end to “indiscriminate use of force” by the coalition, citing the casualties reported by Tripoli of 48 dead and 150 wounded.

China, another abstainer, expressed regret at the air strikes, saying it opposed using force in international relations.

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the raids had included attacks on non-military targets, and had damaged roads, bridges and a cardiology centre.

Gortney said the cruise missiles “struck more than 20 integrated air defence systems and other air defence facilities ashore”.

They were followed by strikes by manned aircraft including B-2 Stealth bombers which dropped 40 bombs on a Libyan military airfield, US officials said.

As Tripoli awaited new attacks, AFP journalists saw residents who had fled Benghazi returning to the rebel capital in eastern Libya.

Medics in Benghazi said that 85 civilians and rebels were killed in fighting with Kadhafi’s forces on Friday and Saturday, while AFP correspondents counted nine bodies of Kadhafi loyalists in a hospital.

AFP correspondents and rebels said dozens of government military vehicles, including tanks, were destroyed on Sunday in air strikes west of the city.

According to the rebels, French warplanes — which began the coalition operation with a strike at 1645 GMT on Saturday — strafed government forces for two hours as day broke on Sunday.

The French spokesman said Paris had deployed 15 aircraft with air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities.

A furious Kadhafi said on Sunday that all Libyans were armed and ready to fight until victory against what he branded “barbaric aggression”.

“We promise you a long, drawn-out war with no limits,” he said, speaking on state television for a second straight day without appearing on camera.

The leaders of Britain, France and the United States will “fall like Hitler… Mussolini,” warned the strongman of oil-rich Libya.

“America, France, or Britain, the Christians that are in a pact against us today, they will not enjoy our oil,” he said. “We do not have to retreat from the battlefield because we are defending our land and our dignity.”

US President Barack Obama called Odyssey Dawn a “limited military action,” unlike the regime change aims of the war against Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

He pledged no US troops would be deployed on the ground.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libya-declares-ceasefire-amid-fresh-western-attacks-20110320-230530-514.html

 


US and UK vessels launch missile strike against Gadhafi’s limited air defences in Libya

By Robert Burns, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON – U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defences, firing 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles Saturday at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya‘s air force.

In announcing the mission during a visit to Brazil, President Barack Obama said he was reluctant to resort to force but was convinced it was necessary to save the lives of civilians. He reiterated that he would not send American ground troops to Libya.

“We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said in Brasilia.

It was clear the U.S. intended to limit its role in the Libya intervention, focusing first on disabling or otherwise silencing Libyan air defences, and then leaving it to European and perhaps Arab countries to enforce a no-fly zone over the North African nation.

Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, told reporters the cruise missile assault was the “leading edge” of a coalition campaign dubbed Operation Odyssey Dawn. Its aim: prevent Moammar Gadhafi‘s forces from inflicting more violence on civilians — particularly in and around the rebel stronghold of Benghazi — and degrading the Libyan military’s ability to contest a no-fly zone.

A chief target of Saturday’s cruise missile attack was Libya’s SA-5 surface-to-air missiles, which are considered a moderate threat to some allied aircraft. Libya’s overall air defences are based on older Soviet technology but Gortney called them capable and a potential threat to allied aircraft.

Also targeted: early warning radars and unspecified communications facilities, Gortney said. The U.S. military has extensive recent experience in such combat missions; U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft repeatedly attacked Iraq’s air defences during the 1990s while enforcing a no-fly zone over Iraq’s Kurdish north.

Cruise missiles are the weapon of first choice in such campaigns; they do not put pilots at risk, and they use navigational technologies that provide good precision.

The first Tomahawk cruise missiles struck at 3 p.m. EDT, Gortney said, after a one-hour flight from the U.S. and British vessels on station in the Mediterranean.

The U.S. has at least 11 naval vessels in the Mediterranean, including three submarines, two destroyers, two amphibious warfare ships and the USS Mount Whitney, a command-and-control vessel that is the flagship of the Navy’s 6th Fleet. Also in the area are Navy P-3 and EP-3 surveillance aircraft, officials said.

Gortney said it would take as long as 12 hours to assess the effectiveness of Saturday’s strikes. Then a high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned surveillance plane would overfly the target areas to get a more precise view, the admiral said. He would not say how long the attacks on Libyan air defences would last, but he stressed that Saturday’s assault with cruise missiles was the first phase of a multi-stage mission.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who was scheduled to fly to Russiaon Saturday afternoon to begin a week-long overseas trip, postponed his departure for 24 hours. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates decided he should remain in Washington to monitor developments in Libya at the outset of U.S. strikes.

Gates had been skeptical of getting involved in Libya’s civil war, telling Congress earlier this month that taking out Libya’s air defences was tantamount to war. Others have worried that the mission could put the U.S. on a slippery slope to deeper involvement in yet another Muslim country — on top of the wars inIraq and Afghanistan.

Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended an international conference in Paris that endorsed military action against Gadhafi, the U.S. and Britain kicked off their attacks.

At a news conference in Paris, Clinton said Gadhafi had left the world no choice but to intervene urgently and forcefully to protect further loss of civilian life.

“We have every reason to fear that, left unchecked, Gadhafi would commit unspeakable atrocities,” she told reporters.

Clinton said there was no evidence that Gadhafi’s forces were respecting an alleged cease-fire they proclaimed and the time for action was now.

“Our assessment is that the aggressive action by Gadhafi’s forces continues in many parts of the country,” she said. “We have seen no real effort on the part of the Gadhafi forces to abide by a cease-fire.”

Among the U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean were two guided-missile destroyers, the USS Barry and USS Stout, as well as two amphibious warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, and a command-and-control ship, the USS Mount Whitney. The submarine USS Providence was also in the Mediterranean.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/us-navy-vessels-launch-missile-strike-against-gadhafis-20110319-130851-879.html

 


Supporters call for vote Thursday on UN resolution to impose no-fly zone on Libya

By Anita Snow,Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

Supporters of a no-fly zone over Libya called for a Security Council vote Thursday on a U.N. resolution aimed at preventing Moammar Gadhafi‘s planes from conducting aerial attacks on the Libyan people, but the United States was pushing for broader action to protect civilians from land and sea attacks as well.

Britain and France put a draft resolution that would impose a no-fly zone in a final form late Wednesday after more than eight hours of closed-door discussions by Security Council ambassadors. France’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said the text was being sent to capitals overnight and could still be changed before being put to a vote in the 15-member council.

With Gadhafi’s forces intensifying attacks and heading toward rebel-held Bengazi, Libya’s second-largest city, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the reporters the Obama administration is “fully focused on the urgency and the gravity of the situation on the ground.”

According to a council diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private, Rice said during more than eight hours of closed-door discussions by council ambassadors Wednesday the goal should be expanded from creating a no-fly zone to protecting civilians, meaning the international community must have all the tools it needs including authorization to use planes, troops or ships to stop attacks by Gadhafi’s air, land and sea forces.

According to the diplomat, Rice said the U.S. will not act without Security Council authorization, does not want to put U.S. ground troops into Libya, and insists on broad international participation, especially by Arab states.

“We are interested in a broad range of actions that will effectively protect civilians and increase the pressure on the Gadhafi regime to halt the killing and to allow the Libyan people to express themselves in their aspirations for the future freely and peacefully,” Rice told reporters after the meeting. “Those include discussion of a no-fly zone, but the U.S. view is that … a no-fly zone has inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians at immediate risk.”

The initial draft resolution would establish a ban on all flights in Libyan airspace and authorize U.N. member states “to take all necessary measures” to protect civilians. But an amendment proposed by the United States and obtained by The Associated Press would authorize states “to protect civilians and civilian objects from the Gadhafi regime, including by halting attacks by air, land and sea forces under the control of the Gadhafi regime.”

During the sometimes heated closed-door discussions, the diplomat said Rice told council members the United States is very concerned that Gadhafi’s forces are on a rapid march to Benghazi and wants the amendment because a no-fly zone isn’t enough to protect civilians from probable atrocities.

It was unclear if the amendment the U.S. was calling for would remain in the text that was eventually put to a vote.

The diplomat said Russia, which has veto power, raised serious questions about the use of force against Gadhafi and other council nations reacted cautiously.

Lebanon, France and Britain introduced the draft resolution Tuesday afternoon, spurred by the Arab League‘s urgent call for a no-fly zone.

Rice told reporters the U.S. is “working very hard” toward having a vote on Thursday.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong, the current council president, told reporters “we hope we will have real progress tomorrow.”

An Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because council discussions are private, said the United States is discussing a range of other concrete steps with allies, both at the United Nations and at NATO. Among those additional steps are greater humanitarian aid, supporting the Libyan resistance with money from seized Gadhafi-related assets, and greater enforcement of the U.N. arms embargo on Libya.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose government had expressed misgivings about a no-fly zone, proposed that the council vote first on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Libya. Rice told reporters a majority of council members did not support a separate cease-fire resolution but said that a call for a cease-fire could be incorporated in the no-fly resolution.

“We were not rejecting at all the larger resolution,” Churkin told reporters, adding that his country thought that the call for a cease-fire “could possibly prevent impending bloodshed in Libya.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier Wednesday urged all sides in Libya to accept an immediate cease-fire.

Ban “is gravely concerned about the increasing military escalation by government forces, which include indications of an assault on the city of Benghazi,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

The U.N. chief warned that “a campaign to bombard such an urban centre would massively place civilian lives at risk,” Nesirky said.

While Russia and Germany expressed doubts, France pushed for rapid action with Foreign Minister Alain Juppe saying in Paris that several Arab countries have pledged to participate in possible military action in the North African country.

Libya’s deputy U.N. ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, who supports the opposition, said five Arab countries have offered support.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on leaders of the 14 other Security Council nations to “fully shoulder their responsibilities and give support to this initiative.”

“Together, we can save the martyred people of Libya,” he wrote in a letter. “It is now a matter of days, if not hours. The worst would be that the appeal of the League of the Arab States and the Security Council decisions be overruled by the force of arms.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a visit to Egypt on Wednesday that the Obama administration is consulting with the Arab League “about their understanding of the goals and modalities of a no-fly zone as well as other forms of support.”

“We believe that this must be an international effort and that there has to be decisions made in the Security Council in order for any of these steps to go forward,” she said.

Libya’s Dabbashi told reporters he expects a no-fly resolution to be adopted, with a provision that will also allow air strikes.

He stressed the urgency of council action, saying according to information the Libyan Mission has received, Gadhafi is preparing for two operations: One against the eastern city of Ajdabiya, which is already under siege using mercenaries in more than 400 vehicles that are already en route, and one against mountain villages in the west where tanks, heavy artillery and other weapons are being gathered for an assault.

The latest push for a ban on flights in Libya came as Gadhafi’s forces intensified offensives in the east and the west Wednesday with relentless shelling aimed at routing rebel holdouts.

France and Britain failed to win support for a no-fly zone during a two-day meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers in Paris earlier Tuesday and the G-8’s final communique did not mention a flight ban, leaving any action to the Security Council.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the G-8 that his country wants more details and clarity from the Arab League about its proposals for Libya before approving any military intervention, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said his country was “very skeptical” about military action.

The Security Council on Feb. 26 imposed an arms embargo on Libya and ordered all countries to freeze assets and ban travel for Gadhafi and some close associates. It also referred the regime’s deadly crackdown on protesters to the International Criminal Court, for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/french-minister-says-several-arab-nations-participate-military-20110316-042813-499.html