War clouds hover over Tripoli

08:44, March 21, 2011      

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Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters)

War clouds are gathering over as Western forces have started launched air strikes against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces after a no-fly zone is imposed on Libya.

At around 02:30 a.m. local time (00:30 GMT) on Sunday, missiles whistling from the sea hit the Tajura area near Tripoli and the ensuing huge explosions sounded over the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

The air-defense forces loyal to Gaddafi immediately fought back with anti-craft guns, misbelieving Western warplanes were coming to attack. The traces of anti-aircraft gun shots could been seen in the night sky over Tripoli.

Intensive anti-aircraft guns lasted about 10 minutes in the southern and southwestern part of the city.

Soon in the early Sunday morning, some angry local residents rushed to a hotel in Tripoli, where foreign journalists stay, to protest the air assaults carried out by the Western forces.

The world's major powers, Britain, the United States and France, Saturday started to launch strikes from the air and sea against Gaddafi's forces after the UN Security Council had passed a resolution to impose a no-fly zone on Libya and protect civilians in Libya.

France carried out initial four air strikes, while the U.S. military said 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from American and British ships and submarines at more than 20 Libyan coastal targets.

French warplanes Saturday night 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 stronghold of Libyan rebels.

Libyan Parliament Speaker Mohammed Abul-Qassim al-Zwai told a press conference that foreign fighter jets hit Tripoli and Misurata, which caused many casualties.

Sixty-four people have been killed and 150 others wounded in the air strikes since Saturday, Libya's health officials said on Sunday.

Western warplanes have bombed civilian targets in Tripoli, causing the casualties, and several fuel tanks were also hit, Libya's state television reported.

In a brief audio message carried out by Libya's state television hours after the air strike, Gaddafi called the Western attacks as "a crusader war" against the Libyan people, saying that the air strikes were designed to "terrify the Libyan people" and were "terrorist means."

Gaddafi vowed to snatch a victory over Western forces, saying the western forces would be defeated.

All the Libyan people were united and have been given weapons, "ready for a long war" in the country, he said.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said on Sunday that the initial stage of an international operation to set up a no-fly zone over Libya "has been successful."

Speaking to ABC's "This Week" news program, Mullen said the Libyan government forces' advance on rebel stronghold Benghazi has been stopped, adding the operation has "limited goals," and isn't aimed at regime change in Libya.

The UN Security Council Thursday adopted a resolution to impose a no-fly zone on Libya and authorize "all necessary measures," excluding ground troops, to protect civilians in the embattled country.

On Saturday afternoon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited leaders from some Arab countries and main Western powers to attend an emergency summit held at the Elysee Palace on the implementation on the UN resolution on imposing a no-fly zone on Libya.

After the emergency summit, Sarkozy said France had already taken military action against Libya, noting "our determination is total."

Earlier Saturday, several French reconnaissance planes were flying over Libya. French warplanes also fired the first shots Saturday, destroying tanks and armored vehicles near Benghazi.

Denmark dispatched six F-16 jet fighters to the U.S. base in Sicilia, Italy, preparing to participate in action against the Libyan government forces.

In addition, British and Canadian warplanes are on their way to join their NATO allies' operations against Gaddafi. Italy has agreed to open seven military bases for the operations.

On Saturday afternoon before Western forces started the air strikes, the Libyan government invited a group of foreign journalists to visit a camp in Tripoli where Gaddafi reportedly resides in. Thousands of people, including many women and children were gathering there to protest any air strikes by western countries.

On Sunday morning, more Libyans joined the protests in Tripoli against Western forces amid fresh waves of air assaults by Western warplanes.

Source: Xinhua
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