Operation 'Odyssey Dawn': Gadhafi Defiant as Western Forces Pound Libya
Coalition forces have attacked targets in Libya with dozens of cruise missiles, and a no-fly zone is reportedly now in place. But Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is defiant, promising the West a "long war."
Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Gadhafi explode on a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah on Sunday after an air strike by coalition forces.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was defiant Sunday as the military operation by Western coalition forces entered its second day.
"We promise you a long war," he said on state television, speaking via telephone. "We will fight inch by inch."
Earlier he had described the attacks as "colonial crusader aggression that may ignite another large-scale crusader war" and said that he would open up arms depots to his people so they could defend Libya.
A Pentagon official said that US destroyers and submarines had fired at least 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets in Libya early on Sunday morning, while the British Ministry of Defense confirmed that a British submarine and Tornado jets had also fired missiles at Libyan targets. There were reports that dozens of cruise missiles had hit the capital Tripoli early on Sunday morning. Targets in and around the western city of Misrata and the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi were also attacked. US military officials said American forces and planes were working together with forces from Britain, France, Canada and Italy.
Speaking in Brazil, where he is beginning a five-day visit to Latin America, US President Barack Obama stressed that military action had not been his preference. "This is not an outcome the US or any of our partners sought," Obama said. "We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy." He repeated previous assurances that the US would not send in ground forces.
Casualty Figures Can Not Be Confirmed
Libyan state television claims that 64 people had been killed in the attacks and at least 150 people wounded, and broadcast footage of people it said had been injured. The casualty figures could not be independently confirmed.
The US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told NBC on Sunday that the air strikes had halted the advance of Gaddafi's troops on the city of Benghazi. He said a no-fly zone was now in place over Libya. Government air defenses had been "taken out," he said, and there no sign of Libyan aircraft in the air.
Rebels in Benghazi told the Associated Press that the strikes had come just in time, as Libyan government forces had reached the outskirts of the city on Saturday.
SPIEGEL ONLINE reporter Jonathan Stock, who is in Benghazi, reported that the city was tense on Saturday evening. There was an atmosphere of paranoia, and people who are suspected of being Gadhafi loyalists have been repeatedly attacked in the street, he reported.
'All Necessary Measures'
Operation "Odyssey Dawn," as the operation has been dubbed, is the biggest international military action in the Arab world since the Iraq war.
Coalition forces began the operation on Saturday after Western leaders held a summit in Paris to discuss how to proceed. A French plane fired the first shots against Libyan government targets late on Saturday afternoon, destroying tanks and armored vehicles near Benghazi.
The operation was authorized by a resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council on Thursday in New York. The resolution foresees the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya and the use of "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians. Western nations and their Arab partners want to force Gaddafi's troops to hold a cease fire and stop attacks on civilians. Rebels launched an uprising in February against the dictator, who has ruled the country for 41 years.
dgs - with wire reports
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