Gadhafi vows `long war` after US, allies strike

Last Updated: Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 21:26

Tripoli/Cairo: The US and European forces
on Sunday unleashed over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles on Libyan
military targets in Tripoli and along the Mediterranean coast
as their war planes pounded forces of Muammar Gaddafi who
vowed to retaliate against western "aggression" and the "war
on Islam".



At least 112 Tomahawk missiles were fired from
American and British ships and submarines in Operation Odyssey
Dawn (OOD), targeting some 20 Libyan air and missile defence
targets in Tripoli and western city of Misurata, US Navy Vice
Admiral William Gortney said at a Pentagon briefing in
Washington.
India and Russia came out against the strikes. India
said it regrets the air strikes that are taking place and
wanted measures to be taken to mitigate and not exacerbate the
already difficult situation for the Libyan people.



Moscow pushed for an end to "indiscriminate use of
force" by the US-led forces and said the intervention in Libya
has been "adopted (by the UNSC) in haste".



French jets fired the first shots in OOD, the biggest
international military intervention in the Arab world since
the 2003 invasion of Iraq, destroying tanks and armoured
vehicles in eastern Libya, Al-Jazeera reported.



Libyan state television said 48 civilians have been
killed and 150 wounded as a result of this "aggression".
It claimed most of the casualties were children but gave no
details. There was no independent confirmation about the death
toll.



BBC quoted UK Finance Minister George Osborne as
saying that such claims should be treated with caution as the
military was striving to avoid civilian casualties.



Heavy firing and explosion were heard in several parts
of the Libyan capital.



Al-Jazeera quoted an unnamed US military officials as
saying that "Gaddafi`s air defence systems have been severely
disabled. It`s too soon to predict what he and his ground
forces may do in response to today`s strikes".



Despite the reverses, a defiant Gaddafi slammed the
West for the "aggression", saying "We will not leave our land
and liberate it."



Warning that it will be a "long war", he said: "We
will fight for every square in our land".



"We will die as martyrs," he said in his roughly
15-minute address, the second since the air raids began on
Saturday after the UN Security Council gave its nod for `no
fly` zone over Libya to halt Gaddafi`s air powers against
rebels.



The Council move had come after international outrage
over Gaddafi`s forces pounding rebel-held positions including
Benghazi, Misurata, Tobruk and Ajdabiya.



Claiming that the Libyan "people are behind him and
ready for all-out war", Gaddafi threatened to throw open
defence supplies to arm civilians to defend the country.



"It is now necessary to open the stores and arm all
the masses with all types of weapons to defend the
independence, unity and honour of Libya," 68-year-old Gaddafi
said in his audio message broadcast.



He drew parallel to other US-led wars, including
Vietnam, saying the air attacks by French, US and British
forces amounted to a "war on Islam", Al Jazeera said.



US President Barack Obama said it had not been his
first choice to authorise US participation in military strikes
against the Gaddafi regime.



"Today I authorised the Armed Forces of the United
States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support
of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That
action has now begun," Obama said from Brazil, where he has
just begun a five-day visit through Latin America.



"This is not an outcome the US or any of our partners
sought," Obama said.



US military forces are on the leading edge of the
coalition operation, taking out Libya`s integrated air and
missile defence system.



"The ordnance is aimed at radars and anti-aircraft
sites around the capital of Tripoli and other facilities along
the Mediterranean coast," the Pentagon said in a statement.



Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs
of Staff, said the Gaddafi regime still has some "surface to
air capabilities", but the strikes so far have been very
successful.
"He (Gadafi) still has some surface-to-air capability,
where he could attack an aircraft, including one of ours,"
Mullen was quoted as saying by the ABC news today.



"We haven`t seen large-scale indications of that after
the action yesterday. He clearly has the ability to continue
to attack his own people, and then we`re very focused on that,
and trying to ensure that his military forces don`t do that,"
he said.



Benghazi, he said, however, is still not safe at this
particular point in time.



The BBC said coalition military officials plan to
monitor the activities of Libyan ground forces near key
populated areas including the eastern rebel-held Benghazi,
even as a Misrata resident was quoted as saying that the
pro-Gaddafi forces had launched fresh attacks today.



At least 94 people were killed in an assault launched
two days ago on the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi by
forces loyal to Gaddafi, AFP quoted medics as saying.



Spain, Norway, and Denmark have also announced that
they are joining the large-scale military intervention into
Libya, the Press TV reported.



The Security Council resolution, adopted on Thursday,
called for an immediate ceasefire and authorised "all
necessary measures" for protecting civilians in Libya from
Gaddafi`s forces.



India, China, Russia, Brazil and Germany abstained
from voting on the resolution, which was co-authored by
Britain and France.
France, Britain and the US had warned Gaddafi on
Friday that they would resort to military means if he ignored
the UN resolution.



The air strikes was launched yesterday after officials
of a number of countries meeting in Paris ordered a
large-scale military intervention into Libya in order to end
the assaults on civilians launched by Gaddafi`s troops.



Meanwhile, Libya has suspended cooperation with Europe
on the issue of illegal immigration, Libyan state-tv reported.
It has also demanded an urgent meeting of the UN Security
Council to discuss the crisis.



Mohammad al-Zawi, the secretary-general of the Libyan
parliament, said his country was facing a "barbaric" attack,
and reiterated that Libyan forces had been observing a
"ceasefire".



African Union has criticized the military operations
and called for an "immediate stop" to air strikes, saying it
rejects "any kind of foreign military intervention" in Libya.



"The situation in Libya demands urgent action so an
African solution (can be found) to the very serious crisis
which this sister nation is going through," said Mauritanian
President Ould Abdel Aziz who is one of the AU panel members.



A solution must take into account "our desire that
Libya`s unity and territorial integrity be respected", he
said.



Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, the son and close advisor of
Libyan leader Gaddafi, remained defiant, saying: ?The whole
country is united against the armed militia and the
terrorists."
"The Americans and other Western countries are
supporting the terrorists and the armed militia. That`s it,"
he was quoted as saying by the ABC news.



Saif-Al-Islam said he was surprised that Obama, whome
he thought "a good man and friend of Arab world, is bombing
Libya".



"So it was a big surprise that, finally, President
Obama -- we thought he`s a good man and friend of Arab world
-- is bombing Libya,? he said.



A day after the bombing in Libya began, Obama held a
conference call with his top national security team to
discussed the progress of OOD.



Obama received a briefing from AFRICOM Commander
General Carter Ham, on US military operations in Libya,
besides those from National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and
his Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, the
White House said today.



Obama also discussed the diplomatic consultations
taking place on the situation in Libya. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and the Defense Secretary Robert Gates also
attended the conference call.



PTI



First Published: Sunday, March 20, 2011 - 21:26

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