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Military intervention

March 20, 2011

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi promised a "long war" to the international coalition enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya. The US fired cruise missile and French warplanes fired against Libyan forces.

Fighter jets
Reconnaissance jets were seen in Libyan airspaceImage: AP

Britain, France and the United States continued to attack Libyan military forces on Sunday, angering Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who said the Mediterranean had been turned into a "battlefield."

In a televised address on Sunday, Gadhafi said all Libyans were armed and prepared for a "long war" to defeat forces attacking his country.

"All the Libyan people are united," he said. "You will not advance, you will not step on this land. We promise you a long, drawn-out war with no limits. We are prepared. This is a very happy moment we are living."

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."

Attacks underway

The US launched cruise missile attacks against targets mainly along the Libyan coast on Saturday, Vice Admiral William Gortney told a press conference in Washington.

"Earlier this afternoon over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from both US and British ships and submarines struck more than 20 integrated air defense systems and other air defense facilities ashore," Gortney said on Saturday.

French service personnel preparing a Rafale jet fighter at the military base of Saint Dizier
French fighter planes were the first to hit targetsImage: dapd

In Tripoli, explosions were reported. Libyan TV claimed the "crusader" airplanes hit civilian areas.

In a brief statement, Gadhafi said the Mediterranean had been turned into a "battlefield" by the coalition action. He added that arms depots were being opened up so that people could defend the country. Shortly after the speech, Libyan state television carried a message stating that Libya would cease to cooperate with Europe on efforts to control illegal immigration. 

Head of the Libyan parliament Abul Qasim al-Zuai condemned the attacks as "barbaric aggression."

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.

The decision to begin military action was made in response to Gadhafi's continued attacks against rebel-held Benghazi, despite promising a ceasefire, and in defiance of a United Nations no-fly zone imposed on Thursday.

'The time for action has come'

World leaders in Paris
Sarkozy hosted the meeting in ParisImage: AP

"As of now, our aircraft are preventing planes from attacking the town," Sarkozy said Saturday after an emergency meeting of world leaders in Paris.

Sarkozy condemned the "murderous madness" of Gadhafi, and but then addressed the Libyan leader directly, saying that "the door of diplomacy will be reopened when you stop the aggression."

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said British forces were in action over Libya. He said, "the time for action has come. Colonel Gadhafi has made this happen."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was more circumspect about military intervention. "Germany had concerns about part of the UN resolution," she said. "But now it has been passed we want it to be implemented successfully."

"We are united that the war must be ended. The resolution must be pushed through," Merkel told reporters. "We will not take part in the action in military terms. We will take on additional responsibilities in Afghanistan." Such a move would free up NATO forces to go into Libya.

International coalition

Qatar and several European nations, including Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, on Saturday confirmed their will to take part in a UN-sanctioned military intervention in Libya, a diplomat said.

Explosion as the plane hits the ground
A rebel plane, reportedly shot down by rebels themselves, exploded as it hit the groundImage: dapd

France and Britain have been leading calls and plans for attacks on Gadhafi's forces to prevent attacks on rebels.

Canada has also said it will send several fighter jets to take part.

Greece has made the island of Crete available, and Italy has offered the use of its military bases for UN-backed forces enforcing the no-fly zone.

The US Navy has prepared three submarines with Tomahawk missiles and two Navy ships to participate in operations against Libya. The US is also preparing planes for action.

Spain will provide six aircraft, a frigate and a submarine in the effort to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.

Norway, Denmark and Belgium are also sending warplanes.

Qatar has said it will contribute to the no-fly zone, but has not given any details. The United Arab Emirates has also said it would participate.

Earlier on Saturday, French warplanes took off from their base at Saint-Dizier in eastern France to conduct reconnaissance flights over Libyan territory.

Author: Natalia Dannenberg, Ben Knight, Richard Connor (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Sean Sinico

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