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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

U.S Air Force F-15E fighter jet crashed in Libya

U.S Air Force F-15E fighter jet Tuesday that crashed near
the eastern city of Benghazi, Libya

Allied fighters struck targets in Tripoli on a fourth day of
airstrikes, but the forces loyal to Col. Gaddafi showed no signs of ending
their sieges of rebel held cities, as President Obama has demanded, while
disputes within the allied coalition over the future of the mission remained

Attacks were particularly intense in Misurata, where pro-Gaddafi
snipers and artillery in Misurata killed 40 people and wounded 189, a rebel
spokesman said, and Zintan, both of which have been under siege for weeks.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, an American officer who is the
tactical commander of the mission, said that his intelligence reports confirmed
that Colonel Gaddafi’s forces were attacking civilians in Misurata on Tuesday.

The admiral, who briefed reporters at the Pentagon by
telephone on Tuesday afternoon from his command ship in the Mediterranean, the
Mount Whitney, did not say whether there had been a response yet, but said, “We
are considering all options.”

An American fighter jet crashed overnight in the first known
setback for the international coalition. According to the United States
military, an F-15E Strike Eagle warplane went down late Monday “when the
aircraft experienced equipment malfunction.” The aircraft, normally based in
England, was flying out of Aviano Air Base in northeastern Italy when it
crashed. “Both crew members ejected and are safe,” an American statement said.

A photograph shows its charred wreckage surrounded by
onlookers in the middle of what looked like an empty field.

Admiral Locklear said the two pilots had landed by parachute
in eastern Libya and that one had been found by a coalition rescue team and
another by “the people of Libya.” The pilot found by the Libyans, Admiral
Locklear said, “was treated with dignity and respect” and is now in the custody
of the United States.

Admiral Locklear, provided no further details.

But Channel 4 News in Britain said that six villagers were
shot by American troops during the rescue operation. None of the villagers —
who were interviewed by a Channel 4 reporter in a nearby hospital — were
killed, though a small boy could have a leg amputated. The United States
military said it was investigating the reports.

American officials said on Monday that military strikes to
destroy air defenses and establish a no-fly zone over Libya had nearly
accomplished their initial objectives, and that the United States was moving
swiftly to hand command to allies in Europe.

Admiral Locklear indicated there would be more strikes on
Colonel Qaddafi’s ground forces in coming days now that 161 Tomahawk cruise
missiles have largely knocked out his air defenses, largely freeing coalition
pilots from the possibility of being shot down.

The admiral said he expected planes from Qatar — the only
Arab country to provide aircraft so far — to be flying for the coalition by the

But divisions persisted on Tuesday over how the campaign
should continue and under whose command, though the countries of the NATO
alliance seemed to be making slow and bad-tempered progress toward deciding who
will run the operation.

With France objecting to NATO control over the Libyan
campaign and the United States, Britain, Italy, Norway and others insisting
upon it, NATO countries appeared to be nearing a compromise to separate the
political and military aspects.

France proposed a committee of foreign ministers of
countries involved in the operation to act as a "political steering body,”
French foreign minister Alain Juppé told parliament on Tuesday. He said NATO
would then provide “support” — the military “command and control” necessary to
coordinate the airplanes and missions of various countries.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said on
Tuesday that the United Nations should be the umbrella for a solely
humanitarian operation in Libya, Reuters reported, insisting that his country,
a NATO ally, “will never ever be a side pointing weapons at the Libyan people.”
The dispute raised concerns that American plans to hand over command of the
operation could be delayed by disputes among its partners over who should take

The White House released a statement Tuesday saying that
President Obama had called Mr. Erdogan and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin
Khalifa al-Thani, to impress upon them the need for “a broad-based
international effort, including Arab states,” in the military campaign in

Outside the Western alliance, divisions seemed to deepen on
Tuesday, with China joining Brazil and Russia in calling for a cease-fire,
while India said there should be no foreign presence in Libya. India, Brazil,
Russia, China and Germany abstained from the United Nations vote last week that
authorized the intervention.

American, British and French warplanes have been flying
sorties since Saturday, stalling a ground attack by pro-Qaddafi forces in the
east and hitting targets including air defenses, an airfield and part of
Colonel Qaddafi’s compound in Tripoli.

But the firepower of more than 130 Tomahawk cruise missiles
and attacks by allied warplanes have not yet succeeded in accomplishing the
more ambitious demands by the United States — repeated by President Obama in a
letter to Congress on Monday — that Colonel Qaddafi withdraw his forces from
embattled cities and cease all attacks against civilians.

Ahmed Khalifa, a rebel spokesman in Benghazi, said on
Tuesday that there was still heavy fighting in the western rebel-held cities of
Misurata and Zintan. “Snipers are everywhere in Misrata, shooting anyone who
walks by while the world is still watching,” a doctor in Misurata told The
Associated Press. “The situation is going from bad to worse. We can do nothing
but wait. Sometimes we depend on one meal per day.”

Government shelling of Zintan had demolished a mosque, Mr.
Khalifa said, adding that Colonel Qaddafi’s talk of a cease-fire was
“meaningless.” He said that the allied airstrikes “did in fact prevent further
death and destruction.”

“The front lines are still very fluid,” he said, saying
there was no movement in the standoff between rebel fighters and Qaddafi forces
in the eastern city of Ajdabiya. The rebel fighters are no match for the
firepower of the pro-Qaddafi forces dug in around the city, which rests firmly
in their control. But a correspondent for the Guardian, a British daily, said
he had heard loud explosions around the city and had to “assume coalition
aircraft are attacking Qaddafi forces around Ajdabiya.”

State television in Libya said on Tuesday that there had
been more attacks by what it called the “crusader enemy,” Reuters reported, but
the broadcaster struck a defiant tone, saying, “These attacks are not going to
scare the Libyan people.”

But the airstrikes seemed to have emboldened the citizens of
Tripoli, the capital city that is considered a pro-Qaddafi stronghold. On an
officially supervised visit to the Old City on Tuesday, foreign reporters who
work under close government scrutiny said people seemed noticeably readier to
voice criticism.

Pentagon officials are eager to extract the United States
from a third armed conflict in a Muslim country as quickly as possible. But
Qaddafi forces were holding out against the allied military campaign. Rebel
fighters trying to retake Ajdabiya said their advance was halted on Monday by
tank and rocket fire from government loyalists still controlling entrances to
the city, and that stand-off continued on Tuesday.

Explosions and antiaircraft fire could be heard in and
around Tripoli on Tuesday in a fourth straight night of attacks there.

Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of the United States Africa
Command, who is in charge of the coalition effort, said that he had “full
authority” to attack the regime’s forces if they refused to comply with
President Obama’s demands that they pull back from Ajdabiya, Misurata and

United States military commanders repeated throughout the
day that they were not communicating with Libyan rebels, even as a spokesman
for the rebel military, Khaled El-Sayeh, asserted that rebel officers had been
providing the allies with coordinates for their airstrikes. “We give them the
coordinates, and we give them the location that needs to be bombed,” Mr. Sayeh
told reporters.

On Monday night, a United States military official responded
that “we know of no instances where this has occurred.”

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