Saturday, April 23, 2011

Libya News Bulletin: NATO Escalates Bombing Operations Against Tripoli; Fighting Escalates in Misrata as Militias Take Control in War Against Western-backed Rebels

NATO conducts fresh attacks on Tripoli

Sat Apr 23, 2011 3:52AM

NATO fighter jets have conducted fresh aerial attacks on the Libyan capital of Tripoli, followed by outbursts of anti-aircraft fire as the Libyan regime planned to withdraw from the city of Misratah.

On Saturday morning, the Libyan capital woke to the crackle of heavy machine-gun fire after NATO warplanes carried out several airstrikes against the positions of forces loyal to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in the west of the city, AFP quoted Al-Libya television as saying.

At least two people were killed late Friday after NATO warplanes flew over Gaddafi's stronghold throughout the day.

The latest spate of attacks comes as Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim has said the Libyan army will pull out of the besieged northwestern city of Misratah and allow the local tribes to resolve their conflict on their own.

The humanitarian situation in Libya's third-largest city with a population of more than half a million has significantly deteriorated amid shortage of food, water and medical supplies as a result of a seven-week siege.

On Friday, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen acknowledged that the Libyan civil war is sliding toward a "stalemate" as troops loyal to Gaddafi have tightened the noose around the opposition forces in Misratah as well as other opposition-controlled cities in the North African country.

"It's certainly moving toward a stalemate," said Mullen in a speech to US troops following his visit to Iraq on Thursday.

The top US military commander claimed, however, that NATO-led aerial attacks have downgraded 30 to 40 percent of Libya's ground forces.

Meanwhile, senior US Republican Senator John McCain visited the opposition-held city of Benghazi in eastern Libya on Friday, calling on the Obama administration to "re-engage" militarily to facilitate the demise of Gaddafi's regime.

The visit came a day after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that US President Barack Obama has given military commanders the go ahead to use CIA-operated Predator drones in Libya to target pro-Gaddafi troops.

On March 19, NATO forces started airstrikes on Libya purportedly in order to end the humanitarian crisis in the African nation, in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

Many civilians have been killed in Libya since US-led forces launched aerial attacks on the country.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says the Libyan conflict has so far left 10,000 people dead and 55,000 injured.

Ten Libyans killed in Misratah

Sat Apr 23, 2011 1:6PM

Medics use squeegees to clean blood from the floor of Hikma hospital in city of Misratah on April 23, 2011.

Latest reports indicate that heavy fighting has killed at least ten people and wounded dozens more in the besieged western Libyan city of Misratah.

Another 50 people have been injured in the city -- the scene of fierce clashes between government forces and rebels over the past few weeks.

"Since eight o'clock this morning, we have received 10 dead and 50 wounded, which is usually the number for a full day," AFP quoted Dr. Khalid Abu Salra at the main Hikma hospital in the western port city.

The violence continues despite the government saying it is prepared to withdraw its forces from Misratah, and let local tribes persuade the rebels to lay down arms.

Doctors at hospitals say they are overwhelmed and seriously lack supplies and personnel as patients arrive every few minutes.

Meanwhile NATO has carried out fresh airstrikes on the Libyan capital Tripoli-- this time hitting a target near the compound of embattled ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Government sources say three people were killed in the attack.

23 April 2011
Last updated at 03:46 ET

Libya crisis: Misrata tribes 'may fight rebels'

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen was shown bomb damage at a compound in Tripoli that Gaddafi supporters say was used for water storage

Tribes loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have said that if the army cannot drive rebels from the besieged port city of Misrata, they will, a senior official says.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said the army had tried to keep civilian casualties low but the tribes would not show the same restraint.

Colonel Gaddafi's forces have been pounding Misrata for weeks.

Meanwhile, Nato forces carried out more air strikes on the capital, Tripoli.

The Libyan government says three people were killed by the strikes.

Journalists were shown a concrete bunker near Col Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia compound that received two hits early on Saturday.


Aid organisations say Misrata - the main rebel-held area in western Libya - faces a humanitarian crisis after weeks of fighting. Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people there have died.

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen reports from Tripoli that the regime says the reason Col Gaddafi has remained relatively secure in the west of Libya is that the principal tribes - which wield a lot of power and influence in the country - are on his side.

However, the government has previously used the prospect of tribal civil war as a warning against rebel leaders and Nato intervention, and it may well be that the minister was making more of a threat than expressing the reality of what is going to occur, our correspondent says.

The regime is feeling increasingly isolated and is hoping for some kind of a diplomatic solution, he adds.

A big concrete bunker was hit twice. It wasn't right in the centre of Col Gaddafi's leadership compound, it was what appears to be in a subsidiary part.

The weapons cut through the sandy earth on top of the bunker, then penetrated the concrete and reinforced steel.

Officials said it was used for storing water but I didn't think that was credible. However, there is no evidence of a secondary explosion which suggests the bunker did not contain ammunition.

There are lots of pro-Gaddafi protesters in the area. There are lines of cars driving up and down the road beeping their horns and waving green flags.

Anti-aircraft guns are mounted on a few pick-up trucks in the area and on a roundabout nearby is an encampment of volunteer human shields. Jets continue to fly over the city.

The comments came in a meeting between tribal leaders and the military in the area of Misrata still controlled by the government, Mr Kaim said.

He said the tribes were angry that people's lives had been disrupted by weeks of fighting that had cut the main coastal road and stopped trade in the city.

Tribal leaders say the seaport is for all Libyans and not just the rebels, Mr Kaim said.

'Surgical' tactics

In normal times Misrata is a major commercial centre and its port is second only to Tripoli.

"Now there is an ultimatum before the Libyan army. If they can't resolve the problem in Misrata then the people from the region... will move in," he told reporters.

He said the tribes would first try to persuade the rebels to lay down their arms, but if that failed they would move in. The army would stay where it was, he added.

"The tactic of the army is to have a surgical solution but with the (Nato) air strikes it doesn't work," Mr Kaim said.

The comments came amid reports of setbacks for pro-Gaddafi forces.

A wounded government soldier captured by rebels told Reuters news agency that Col Gaddafi's forces had been told to withdraw from Misrata on Friday, and rebels captured an eight-story insurance building from which dozens of government snipers had been operating.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim says tribes have given the Libyan army an ultimatum

Meanwhile, a fourth evacuation ship chartered by the International Organisation for Migration is planning to rescue more stranded migrant workers and wounded civilians from the besieged city.

Earlier, the most senior US soldier, Adm Mike Mullen, said the war in Libya was "moving towards stalemate", even though US and Nato air strikes have destroyed 30-40% of Libya's ground forces.

The US has authorised the use of armed, unmanned Predator drones over Libya to give "precision capabilities".

A popular revolt against Col Gaddafi - inspired by similar uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia - began in February and a UN mandate later sanctioned air strikes against Libyan state forces to protect civilians.

Nato took control of the operation on 31 March.

23 April 2011 Last updated at 09:07 ET

US confirms first Predator strike in Libya

Two Predators were already being used above Libya for intelligence and reconnaissance missions

The US military has confirmed the first strike by an unmanned Predator drone aircraft in Libya.

The Pentagon did not provide details of the target, but said that it occurred in the early afternoon local time.

Drones can hit military targets more easily in urban areas, minimising the risk of civilian casualties.

Earlier, Libya's government warned that tribes loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi might take over the fight against the rebels in the western city of Misrata.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said the Libyan army was being withdrawn and suggested that the tribes would not show the same level of restraint over civilian casualties.

But a rebel military spokesman in Benghazi said Col Gaddafi was "playing games" and would not allow his forces to leave Misrata.

Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people have died there.

Before Saturday's strike, two US Predators were already being used above Libya for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

On Thursday, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said President Barack Obama had approved air strikes in support of the Nato-led mission because that was where the US had "some unique capabilities".

Gen James Cartwright, the vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said forces loyal to Col Gaddafi were digging in or "nestling up against crowded areas" to avoid being targeted by Nato warplanes.

The more precise Predators bring "their ability to get down lower and therefore, to be able to get better visibility, particularly on targets that have started to dig themselves into defensive positions," he added.


Unknown said...

Message from Serbia for the people of Libya:

Unknown said...