Sunday, March 20, 2011
Libya's air defense system incapacitated
Western forces hit targets along the Libyan coast on Saturday, using strikes from air and sea to force Muammar Gaddafi's troops to cease fire and end attacks on civilians.
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 flew mission over Libya.
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.There was no way to verrify this claim.
Gadhafi said in a telephone call to Libyan state TV that he was opening weapons depots to allow his people to arm themselves in defense.He said the international action against his forces was unjustified, calling it 'simply a colonial crusader aggression that may ignite another large-scale crusader war'.
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.Reuters Arabic reported that Gaddadfi's forces withdrew from Misrata. In Benghazi the offensive of the government troops was haltd. Opposition forces in Benghazi say 30 people were killed and many more wounded during the fighting.
Al-Jazeera English had this video about the fighting in Benghazi: