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Coalition Carries Out Second Wave Of Libya Strikes

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 21.03.2011 15:54

Western powers have launched a second wave of air strikes on Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's armed forces and air-defense systems since the UN Security Council authorized "all necessary measures" to establish a no-fly zone and protect civilians there.

Qaddafi's residential compound in Tripoli was destroyed as well as a line of tanks headed toward Benghazi, the stronghold of a monthlong revolt against the Libyan leader's four-decade rule.

No official information was immediately available on casualties. Qaddafi's whereabouts are not known.

The intervention -- the biggest against an Arab country since the 2003 invasion of Iraq -- began early on March 20 after the United Nations resolution backed international military action in Libya.

Early 'Success'

The strikes drew criticism from Arab League chief Amr Musa, who deplored the loss of civilian lives.

He subsequently toned down his criticism, saying on March 21 that he respected the UN resolution and adding: "We will continue to work on protecting civilians and ensure that any military action takes [the protection of civilians] into consideration. And the protection of civilians will remain the issue that we all -- the Arab League and the UN Security Council -- agree on."

The United States, which is carrying out the strikes in coalition with Britain, France, Italy, Canada, and other states, said the campaign was so far successful and the no-fly zone was now in place.

"There has been no new air activity by the regime, and we have detected no radar emissions from any of the air defense sites targeted, and there has been a significant decrease in the use of all Libyan air surveillance radars," Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, the director of the U.S. military's Joint Staff, told reporters late on March 20.

Western powers dismissed a cease-fire announcement by the Libyan military late on March 20, saying it was not being respected by government forces.

The U.S. military, eager to avoid any parallels with the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, has been treading carefully. Officials have stressed the strike was not aimed at taking out Qaddafi and say the United States will turn over control of the operation to a coalition headed by France, Britain, or NATO.

'Long War'?

The strikes were welcomed by rebel fighters controlling the country's east, which had suffered damaging offensives by Qaddafi's forces for the last 10 days.

Gortney, however, said Benghazi and other rebel-held cities were still under threat. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, warned the outcome of the campaign was "very uncertain."

Qaddafi supporters remained defiant despite the strikes. In Tripoli, a crowd gathered on a central square on March 20, shooting automatic weapons in the air and pledging to slaughter rebels.

"We are waiting for them," one young man in the crowd yelled. "Their graves are ready here. We invite them to hell. Welcome to hell. We are waiting for you."

Qaddafi, too, vowed to fight on. He said the government was arming its supporters and warned of a "long war."

Reports quoting UN diplomats say the Security Council will hold closed-door consultations on Libya today.

The unnamed diplomats said the discussion was called by China, which is this month's council president, in response to a letter from Libya and a Russian request.

Qaddafi has said the Security Council has a responsibility to halt what he called the Western aggression against Libya.

compiled from agency reports

Source: second_night_strikes/2345031.html

Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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