Thursday, March 24, 2011

French jet 'destroys Libya plane'

French jet 'destroys Libya plane'

The French military said a Rafale jet attacked the Libyan plane

French warplanes have destroyed a Libyan plane which had been flying in breach of the UN no-fly zone, French officials say.

The plane, a smaller trainer aircraft, had just landed in the besieged city of Misrata when it was attacked, they say.

It is the first incident of its kind since enforcement of the zone began.

Dozens of coalition missiles have already hit military bases, with the aim of ending Col Muammar Gaddafi's ability to launch air attacks.

UK officials said on Wednesday that Libya's air force no longer existed as a fighting force.
Single engine

Coalition forces have pounded Libyan targets for a fifth consecutive night.

Initial reports of the French action said the Libyan plane, a G-2/Galeb with a single engine, was in the air when it was hit.

But French military spokesman Col Thierry Burkhard later said the plane had just landed when the attack took place.

The French jet, a Rafale, fired an air-to-ground missile, other reports said.

Earlier, the French military said their planes had hit an air base about 250km (155 miles) south of the Libyan coastline, but did not give any further information on the location of the target or the damage.

Western military planes were also said to have hit the town of Sebha in southern Libya, according to residents and media reports.

Fresh fighting has meanwhile been reported in Misrata, scene of a bitter battle for control which has lasted for many days.

Misrata resident Muhammad told the BBC many large explosions were heard overnight in the city.

"Even now, we continue to hear the aeroplanes circling the air above Misrata," he said.

"Gaddafi's forces have occupied the main street - there are snipers all along the rooftops of that street. They are firing indiscriminately into the main street and the back streets.

"But the heavy artillery and shelling has stopped since yesterday [Wednesday]. In that sense, we are in a much better position."

Further east in the strategically important city of Ajdabiya, residents described shelling, gunfire and houses on fire.

Nato members have been holding talks about assuming responsibility for the no-fly zone over Libya, so far without agreement.

Turkey is an integral part of the naval blockade, but has expressed concern about the alliance taking over command of the no-fly zone.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged all sides in Libya to cease hostilities. "All those who violate international humanitarian and human rights law will be held fully accountable," his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.