Libya hit by first round of Western military attacks

16:32, March 20, 2011      

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Photo taken at around 2:30 a.m. (local time) of March 20, 2011 shows trajectories of gunfire in the sky over Tripoli, capital of Libya. Anti-aircraft gunfire was heard in the southeastern part of Tripoli early Sunday as warplanes flew over the Libyan capital, Xinhua reporters said. (Xinhua/Yang Guang)

At least 48 people were reportedly killed and 150 others wounded in Libya in the first round of Western-led airstrikes that started Saturday, while anti-aircraft gunfire continued to roar in Tripoli early Sunday as warplanes flew over the city.

After the strikes, Libya's Foreign Ministry said late Saturday that it considered invalid the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 that authorizes a no-fly zone over the country and demanded an emergency meeting of the Security Council.

Libya "has the right to use its civilian and military aircraft to defend itself after France violated the air exclusion zone," the ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in a broadcast speech, urged Libyans to "fight against aggression," saying he would open the arms depots to equip civilians so as to defend the country's independence, territorial integrity and glory.


Leaders from main Western powers like France, the United States, Britain announced at their Paris summit Saturday the start of military action against Libya's government forces.

The decision came after the government forces of the North African nation stormed into the rebel stronghold of Benghazi earlier on Saturday.

French warplanes attacked an air defense site in Tajura, about 10 km east of Tripoli, and destroyed several armored vehicles of the Libyan government troops near Benghazi, the last rebel stronghold, Saturday night.

The strikes, totaling four shots of fire so far, started early Saturday afternoon by French fighter jets of Rafale and Mirage 2000, as the first foreign military action in Libya since the adoption of Resolution 1973.

According to Thierry Burkhard, spokesperson of French general staff, the first strike targeted a vehicle believed to belong to government troops around 5:45 p.m. Paris time (1645 GMT).

Burkhard meanwhile denied press reports that one of its planes carrying out operations in Libya was shot down on Saturday.

"We deny (that), all the planes that went out today have returned," Burkhard was quoted by local media as saying.

Meanwhile, the United States on Saturday launched Tomahawk missiles against Libyan air defenses from warships deployed in the Mediterranean, as U.S. President Barack Obama, who is on a visit to Brazil, announced Saturday that the United States has started limited military action against Libya.

Obama said the use of force was not his "first choice" and not a choice he made lightly. "In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition" that is committed to enforcing the U.N. resolution that called for protecting the Libyan people, he said.

The U.S. strikes targeted air defense sites along the Libyan coast and the sites were around Libyan capital Tripoli and the western region of Misrata.

"Over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired earlier in the afternoon from both U.S. and British ships and submarines and 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.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday evening confirmed that British forces are in action over Libya, saying "what we are doing is necessary, legal and right."

"We have all seen the appalling brutality meted out by Gaddafi against his own people," he said.

On Friday, Cameron said the preparation of deploying Royal Air Force Tornado and Typhoon aircraft as well as air-to-air refueling and surveillance aircraft to take necessary actions has begun.

Meanwhile, Norway has also vowed to send six F16 jet fighters to take part in the military operations against Libya.

Local reports said over 100 pilots and other personnel are ready for military operations in Libya, and the warplanes will take off right at the beginning of next week and will be based in Sicily, Italy.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero also confirmed on Saturday that his country will be sending four F-18 fighter planes to join the operation in Libya.

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