Libya -Fury as allies kill civilian

Western forces pounded Libya’s air defences and patrolled its skies on Sunday, but their day-old intervention hit a serious diplomatic setback as the Arab League chief and other countries condemned the “bombardment of civilians”.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed to defeat the Western powers’ “terrorism” and sent his troops and tanks into the rebel-held coastal city of Misrata, residents said. Later, a Libyan military spokesman announced a new ceasefire in the campaign against a military uprising. Arab League chief Amr Moussa said what was happening was not what Arabs had envisaged when they called for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.
“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,” he said. In comments carried by Egypt’s official state news agency, Moussa also said he was calling for an emergency Arab League meeting.
Arab backing for a no-fly zone provided crucial underpinning for the passage of the UN Security Council resolution last week that paved the way for the Western intervention, the biggest against an Arab country since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In Benghazi, medics and AFP correspondents said at least 94 people died in an assault launched on Friday on the rebel-held Mediterranean city by forces loyal to Gaddafi.
In the West’s biggest intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, mounted exactly eight years earlier, US warships and a British submarine fired at least 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya on Saturday, the US military said.
And three US B-2 stealth bombers dropped 40 bombs on a major airfield in a bid to destroy much of the Libyan air force, CBS News reported, while fighter planes also searched for ground forces to attack.
Dozens of Gaddafi military vehicles, including tanks, were destroyed Sunday morning in coalition air strikes west of the rebel bastion of Benghazi, AFP correspondents and insurgents said.
Bombs were dropped near the Tripoli headquarters of Gaddafi early Sunday, prompting barrages of anti-aircraft fire from Libyan forces, an AFP reporter said.
The bombs exploded as an aircraft overflew the Bab al-Aziziyah headquarters in the south of Tripoli.It was not immediately clear what targets had been hit.
A furious Gaddafi said on Sunday that all Libyans were armed and ready to fight until victory to defeat what Tripoli has branded a “barbaric aggression.”
“We promise you a long, drawn-out war with no limits,” said the Libyan leader, who was speaking on state television for a second straight day without appearing in front of camera.
The leaders of Britain, France and the United States will “fall like Hitler... Mussolini,” warned the strongman of oil-rich Libya who has ruled for four decades but been confronted with an armed uprising since mid-February.
“America, France, or Britain, the Christians that are in a pact against us today, they will not enjoy our oil,” he said. “We do not have to retreat from the battlefield because we are defending our land and our dignity.”
With the resolution backed by the Arab League, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani defended Doha’s declared participation in the strikes on a fellow Arab state, saying the sole aim was to “stop the bloodbath.”
AFP journalists reported a lull in the air strikes on both Tripoli and around Benghazi early on Sunday, as residents who had fled were seen returning to the rebels’ capital in eastern Libya.
Benghazi, where a semblance of normality returned with cars out on the road and street markets reopened, was still in rebel hands and Gaddafi forces were believed to be stationed on the outskirts.
The British government said it was taking “every precaution” to avoid civilian casualties.
“We should treat with some caution some of the things we see on Libyan state television,” Finance Minister George Osborne told BBC television. “The targets last night were very specifically military targets” linked to air defences.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday that Gaddafi was feeling the “unified will” of the international community through the military campaign.
An AFP correspondent said bombs were dropped earlier Sunday near Bab al-Aziziyah, Gaddafi’s Tripoli headquarters, prompting barrages of anti-aircraft fire from Libyan forces that lasted about 40 minutes.
State television showed footage of hundreds of Gaddafi supporters who it said had gathered earlier to serve as human shields at Bab al-Aziziyah and at the capital’s international airport.
A Libyan official said at least 48 people had died and 150 were hurt — mainly women and children — in the assaults, which began with a strike at 1645 GMT on Saturday by a French warplane.
Libyan state media said Western warplanes had on Saturday night bombed civilian targets in Tripoli, causing casualties while an army spokesman said strikes also hit fuel tanks feeding the rebel-held city of Misrata, east of Tripoli.
Western and Arab warplanes were converging on Italy’s air bases Sunday to join the international campaign to cripple the ability of Moamer Gaddafi’s forces
Russia expressed regret over the attacks and said Resolution 1973 was “adopted in haste,” while the African Union, which opposed military action, on Sunday called for an “immediate stop” to all attacks.
China also voiced regret over the air strikes, saying it opposed the use of force in international relations.
The African Union’s panel on Libya Sunday also called for an “immediate stop” to all attacks after the United States, France and Britain launched military action against Moamer Gaddafi’s forces.
Turkey also urged a review of NATO’s operational planning for Libya, saying the military intervention unleashed on the north African country had “changed the parameters”, diplomats said here.
The immediate goal of the coalition’s intervention in Libya is to protect civilians with a no-fly zone, not to oust strongman Moamer Gaddafi, the top American military officer said Sunday.
US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as other Western leaders, had been saying Gaddafi must go, but since the UN authorised military action on Thursday those calls have been dying down.
The United States meanwhile said it is wary of Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi’s stockpiles of mustard gas but there is no sign he intends to deploy chemical weapons, the top US military officer said Sunday.
“It’s something we’re watching very closely,” Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” programme.
A bomb dropped near Gaddafi’s bunker in Tripoli, a report said.

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