Sunday, March 20, 2011

Libya's Gadhafi vows 'long war'

Libya's Gadhafi vows 'long war'

Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi predicts a "long war" against Libyan rebels and the coalition of countries helping them after overnight missile attacks by U.S. and European forces. 

Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi on Sunday predicted a "long war" against Libyan rebels and the coalition of countries helping them after overnight missile attacks by U.S. and European forces.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the assault by coalition forces — dubbed Odyssey Dawn — "went very well," and a no-fly-zone over Libya was now in place.

Gadhafi appeared as defiant as ever after a night of explosions, which rocked Tripoli and other coastal areas and left the road to the rebel city of Benghazi strewn with charred government military vehicles.

Libyan state television said 48 people were killed and 150 others injured, but the numbers have not been confirmed.

At least 110 missiles were fired during the attacks launched late Saturday to enforce the no-fly zone mandated by the UN Security Council and weaken Gadhafi's air defences.

Rebels had been losing ground to Gadhafi's forces in recent days and begged the international community to intervene. Government tanks were on the outskirts of Benghazi on Saturday, but Mullen said the allied attacks stopped the approach.

Gadhafi told state TV that arms depots around the country were being opened up to citizens so they could defend themselves against what he called terrorism and a "crusading aggression."

The CBC's Nahlah Ayed, reporting from neighbouring Egypt, said Gadhafi tried to portray the conflict as a religious one, accusing Western, "Christian" powers of waging war on Islam. Ayed said this interpretation was bound to fail, however, since Gadhafi has never been a strong defender of Islam.

Rebels said the international strikes also hit an air force complex outside Misrata. After daylight arrived Sunday, Gadhafi forces started bombing Misrata, the only rebel-held city in western Libya, opposition forces said.

During the international operation, Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from American and British ships and submarines at more than 20 coastal targets, the U.S. military said. French fighter jets fired the first shots.

Canada's planes not flying yet

Warplanes from the United States, Canada, Denmark arrived at Italian air bases Saturday. Germany backed the operation but isn't offering its own forces.

Six Canadian jet fighters are part of the allied force but did not take part in the first wave. The fighter jets are at Trapani, Italy, but there has been talk of moving them from Sicily to a French base near Marseille, the CBC's James Cudmore reported Sunday.

Prime Minister Harper's office said Saturday that it would be at least 48 hours before Canada could take part in any bombing.

Harper defended Canada's involvement in the coalition force, saying the Gadhafi regime will massacre anyone suspected of being disloyal.

Gadhafi's regime acted quickly in the run-up to the strikes, sending warplanes, tanks and troops into Benghazi, the first city to fall to the rebellion that began Feb. 15. Then the government attacks appeared to go silent.

A Benghazi resident who works for the Red Cross, told CBC News that a quiet had fallen over the city after the allied intervention, like the "calm before the storm," but people were feeling optimistic.

Rebels had been upset at how long it was taking to get the military action under way, said the woman, who did not want her name used after just losing her neighbours to Gadhaffi gunmen.