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US claims no-fly zone operation over Libya successful

The US has claimed that the initial part of the international operation to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya has been successful. Fighting, however, continues in the besieged rebel-held town of Misrata.

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The first part of an international operation to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya "has been successful" and the government's offensive on Benghazi has been stopped, top US military commander Michael Mullen said Sunday.

"They are no longer marching on Benghazi," Mullen added.

The comments came after the United States along with France and Britain unleashed a barrage of strikes against the Libyan regime's air defenses on Saturday and Sunday. US President Barack Obama said the use of force amounted to a "limited military action" and ruled out sending ground troops to Libya.

Gadhafi condemns "crusade"

A speech apparently delivered by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was broadcast on Libyan state TV Sunday, condemning as a "crusade" the attacks inflicted by an international coalition on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

"You have proven before the world that you are not civilized," he said, addressing the Western-led coalition. "You have proven that you are terrorist animals. Islam will be strengthened after today. We are the leaders of this revolution."

The international coalition is enforcing a United Nations-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya in an attempt to protect a rebel group trapped in its stronghold of Benghazi.

Airfields attacked

French service personnel preparing a Rafale jet fighter at the military base of Saint Dizier

French fighter planes were the first to hit targets

Three US B-2 stealth bombers have dropped 40 bombs on a major Libyan airfield, broadcaster CBS reported early Sunday. The US also launched cruise missile attacks against targets mainly along the Libyan coast on Saturday, Vice Admiral William Gortney told a press conference in Washington.

Earlier Saturday, French fighter planes were the first to fire shots, attacking targets around the embattled city of Benghazi. A rebel fighter plane shot down over the city on Saturday was reported to have been hit by the rebels themselves.

The French warplanes destroyed several tanks and armored vehicles that were threatening the civilian population, the French military said.

"New Nazis"

The only image that was shown during Gadhafi's speech was a sculpture of a golden fist crushing an F-111 bomber - a reference to a US warplane shot down by Libyan forces in 1986.

Gadhafi attempted to paint the attacks on his military positions as Western "imperial aggression" against Libya, and said the Libyan people had been given weapons to fight the West.

World leaders at the Paris summit

Sarkozy hosted the meeting in Paris

"We promise you a long drawn-out war and patience that has no limit," he said. "We are not afraid. You are not going to frighten us with your weapons.

"Anyone who collaborates with you will be eliminated," Gadhafi added. "It's a confrontation between the Libyan people and the new Nazis. We will not fall back. We will not die, you will die."

He went on to compare the leaders of the Britain, France and United States to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, adding that the Western leaders would fall as "all tyrants fall under the pressure of the populist masses."

Bizarrely, Gadhafi claimed the rebellion currently sweeping the Arab world, and which threatened his own regime, had been inspired by his short "Green Book" of political philosophy, first published in 1975.

Libyan state TV also showed pictures of what were claimed to be civilian casualties of the bombings. Gadhafi said 50 people had been killed by Western forces, mainly women, children and religious clerics.

Misery in Benghazi

At least 94 people were killed in an assault launched two days ago on the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi by Gadhafi's forces, it was reported Sunday.

At least 24 bodies of fighters and civilians, many burnt beyond recognition, lay in the morgue of Benghazi's main hospital on Sunday and more may have been stored in refrigeration units, according to Reuters news agency.

The hospital's wards were filled with men, women and children wounded in Saturday's assault by Gadhafi's forces on the rebels' eastern stronghold.

One doctor, Ibrahim Beheih, said by Saturday night 32 deaths had been recorded in the hospital and 66 wounded.

"It is important for the world to see this," he said. "We have been busy since yesterday morning, we have many casualties, many dead, many waiting for surgery."

Author: Ben Knight (DPA, AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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