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French jets strike Gaddafi's planes in Libya

News18test sharma, |

Updated: March 27, 2011, 1:48 PM IST
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French jets strike Gaddafi's planes in Libya
France is one of the coalition countries enforcing a UN no-fly zone aimed at protecting civilians.

Tripoli/Washington: Backed by air strikes from coalition forces, Libyan rebels on Sunday advanced westwards after recapturing the strategic towns of Ajdabiya and Brega, as French fighter jets destroyed five air force planes and two helicopters in an attack on forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

Sixty eight-year-old Gaddafi's opponents had reportedly pressed onto the key town of Brega, 80 km to the west, after reclaiming Ajdabiya, amid indications that the tide may be turning against the embattled leader due to the aerial attacks by US-led coalition forces.

Al-Jazeera said that while it appeared that the rebels had taken over the town of Brega, it remained unclear who controlled the nearby oil port.

Earlier, rebels celebrated on the streets of Ajdabiya after driving pro-Gaddafi forces out of the town.

Gaddafi's forces, who had been controlling the ring road that goes around Ajdabiya, have now been cleared from that position, the Arab channel said.

But Libyan government officials claimed that the army had been withdrawn to save residents from more bloodshed.

In Misurata, shelling by Gaddafi's forces stopped last evening when western coalition planes appeared in the sky, a rebel was quoted as saying.

According to the French armed forces, around 20 of their aircraft supported by an AWACS surveillance plane struck targets on Saturday, including five Galeb fighter jets and two MI-35 helicopters on the ground outside Misurata.

Gaddafi's aircraft were caught on the ground at Misurata air base preparing to launch attacks in an area of the rebel-held town.

France is one of the coalition countries enforcing a UN no-fly zone aimed at protecting civilians.

British missile strikes also destroyed three armoured vehicles in Misurata and two more in Ajdabiya, the Royal Air Force said in a statement.

Libyan state TV said there were more air strikes overnight at Sabha in central Libya, adding that military and civilian areas had been hit, but there was no independent confirmation. It also spoke of strikes near Gaddafi's power base of Sirte, on the Mediterranean coast east of Tripoli.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama asserted that the forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi had been pushed back and a "humanitarian catastrophe" averted.

In his weekly radio address on Saturday, Obama once again ruled out sending any American ground forces to the North African country and sought to project the campaign in Libya as a completely multilateral mission.

"We're succeeding in our mission. We've taken out Libya's air defences.

Gaddafi's forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Gaddafi threatened to show 'no mercy', his forces have been pushed back," he said on the eighth day of military strikes in Libya.

First Published: March 27, 2011, 1:48 PM IST
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