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Video: US pilots safe after fighter jet crashes in Libya

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 3/22/2011 12:55:43 PM ET 2011-03-22T16:55:43

An American fighter jet crashed in Libya's rebel held east, with both crew ejecting safely as the aircraft spun from the sky during the third night of the U.S. and European air campaign.

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The crash was the first major loss for U.S. and European forces, which over three nights appear to have hobbled Gadhafi's air defenses and artillery and rescued the rebels from impending defeat.

But the opposition force, with more enthusiasm than discipline, has struggled to exploit the gains.

Moammar Gadhafi's forces shelled rebels trying to regroup in the dunes outside a key eastern city on Tuesday, and his snipers and tanks roamed the last major opposition-held city in the west.

The international alliance, too, has shown fractures as officials struggle to articulate an endgame.

The plane crashed Monday at 2130 GMT (5:30 p.m. EDT), said Vince Crawley, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command. The U.S. Air Force F-15E came down in field of winter wheat and thistles outside the town of Bu Mariem, about 24 miles east of the rebel capital of Benghazi.

A Marine Corps Osprey search and rescue aircraft retrieved the pilot, while the second crew member, a weapon's officer, was recovered by rebel forces and is now in American hands, another U.S. official said in Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

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The two were separated after ejecting from the jet at high altitude and drifting down to different locations, Crawley said, adding they sustained minor injuries.

One of the airmen landed in a field and approached a crowd of people, not knowing whether they were supporters of Moammar Gadhafi or members of the opposition, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported.

It turned out they were locals who opposed the Libyan leader, the paper said. "I hugged him and said, 'Don't be scared, we are your friends,'" witness Younis Amruni told the Telegraph.

Locals reportedly lined up to shake the airman's hands in thanks.

"We are so grateful to these men who are protecting the skies," Amruni said. "We gave him juice and then the revolutionary military people took him away."

Another witness saw the flaming plane crash into the field. "We didn't hear any shots, it just fell from the sky by itself and then there was a big explosion," said Mohamed Breek.

By Tuesday afternoon, the plane's body was mostly burned to ash, with only the wings and tail fins intact. "I saw the plane spinning round and round as it came down," said Mahdi Amrani, who rushed to the crash site with other villagers.

Video: US fighter jet crashes in Libya (on this page)

Most of eastern Libya, where the plane crashed, is in rebel hands but the force has struggled to take advantage of the gains from the international air campaign.

Ajdabiya, city of 140,000 that is the gateway to the east, has been under siege for a week. Outside the city, a ragtag band of hundreds of fighters milled about on Tuesday, clutching mortars, grenades and assault rifles. Some wore khaki fatigues. One man sported a bright white studded belt.

Some men clambered up power lines in the rolling sand dunes of the desert, squinting as they tried to see Gadhafi's forces inside the city. The group periodically came under artillery attacks, some men scattering and others holding their ground.

"Gadhafi is killing civilians inside Ajdabiya," said Khaled Hamid, a rebel who said he been in Gadhafi's forces but defected to the rebels. "Today we will enter Ajdabiya, God willing."

Since the uprising began on Feb. 15, the opposition has been made up of disparate groups even as it took control of the entire east of the country. Regular army units that joined the rebellion have proven stronger and more organized, but only a few units have joined the battles while many have stayed behind as officers try to coordinate a force with often antiquated, limited equipment.

The rebels pushed into the west of the country in recent weeks, only to fall back to their eastern strongholds in the face of Gadhafi's superior firepower.

Misrata, Libya's third-largest city and the last major western redoubt for the rebels, was being bombarded by Gadhafi's forces on Tuesday, his tanks and snipers controlling the streets, according to a doctor there who said civilians were surviving on dwindling supplies of food and water, desperately in search of shelter.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals if the city falls to Gadhafi's troops, he accused international forces of failing to protect civilians as promised under the United Nations resolution authorizing military action in Libya.

"Snipers are everywhere in Misrata, shooting anyone who walks by while the world is still watching," he said. "The situation is going from bad to worse. We can do nothing but wait. Sometimes we depend on one meal per day."

Mokhtar Ali, a Libyan dissident in exile elsewhere in the Mideast, said he was in touch with his father in Misrata and described increasingly dire conditions.

"Residents live on canned food and rainwater tanks," Ali said. He said Gadhafi's brigades storm residential areas knowing that they won't be bombed there. "People live in total darkness in terms of communications and electricity."

Fewer raids
Monday night, Libyan state TV said a new round of strikes had begun in Tripoli, marking the third night of bombardment. Col. Abdel-Baset Ali, operations officer in the port, said the strikes caused millions of dollars in losses, but no human casualties

Warehouses containing military equipment were hit, apparently by missiles that punched through a corrugated roof and left a crater in one building. Four trucks loaded with rocket launchers were destroyed, as was other transportation and equipment.

"My sense is that — that unless something unusual or unexpected happens, we may see a decline in the frequency of attacks," General Carter Ham, who is leading U.S. forces in the Libyan operation, told reporters in Washington.

Ham said it was possible that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi might manage to retain power.

"I don't think anyone would say that is ideal," the general said Monday, foreseeing a possible outcome that stands in contrast to President Barack Obama's declaration that Gadhafi must go.

The Libyan leader has ruled the North African nation for 42 years and was a target of American air attacks in 1986.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others said the U.S. military's role will lessen in coming days as other countries take on more missions and the need declines for large-scale offensive action like the barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles fired Saturday and Sunday mainly by U.S. ships and submarines off Libya's coast.

A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss classified data, told The Associated Press on Monday the attacks thus far had reduced Libya's air defense capabilities by more than 50 percent. That has enabled the coalition to focus more on extending the no-fly zone, which is now mainly over the coastal waters off Libya and around the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the east, across the country to the Tripoli area this week.

Video: McCain: Gadhafi should be ousted (on this page)

But Washington, wary of being drawn into another war after long campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, has ruled out specific action to overthrow Gadhafi, though France said on Monday it hoped the Libyan government would collapse from within.

Obama, facing questions at home about the United States military getting bogged down in a third Muslim country, said Washington would cede control of the Libyan operation in days.

"We anticipate this transition to take place in a matter of days and not in a matter of weeks," Obama told a news conference during a visit to Chile.

Video: Obama: It is US policy that Gadhafi must go

He did not spell out which nation or organization would take charge, but Britain and France took a lead role in pushing for the intervention in Libya.

NATO officials resumed talks in Brussels on Tuesday after failing to reach agreement at fractious talks on Monday.

Some allies were now questioning whether a no-fly zone was necessary, given the damage already done by air strikes to Gadhafi's military capabilities, a NATO diplomat said, adding: "Yesterday's meeting became a little bit emotional."

Underlining the differences in the anti-Gadhafi coalition, Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said if agreement was not reached on a NATO command, Italy would resume control of the seven airbases it has made available to allied air forces.

A NATO role would require political support from all the 28 states. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is a NATO member, said on Tuesday that the United Nations should be the umbrella for a solely humanitarian operation in Libya.

In a speech in parliament, Erdogan said: "Turkey will never ever be a side pointing weapons at the Libyan people."

Obama spoke with Erdogan and they affirmed their full support for the U.N. resolution "and agreed that this will require a broad-based international effort, including Arab states," the White House said on Tuesday.

The Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Photos: Libya's uprising against Gadhafi

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  1. People gathering in Benghazi, Libya in mid-February of 2011 as protest against the rule of Moammar Gadhafi grew, in part triggered by the arrest of human rights activist Fethi Tarbel. EDITOR'S NOTE: The content, date and location of this image could not be independently verified. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Buildings at the entrance to a security forces compound burn in Benghazi, Feb. 21, 2011. Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi, claiming control of the country's second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli's main square for the first time. (Alaguri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi speaks on state television. Feb. 22, and signalled his defiance over a mounting revolt against his 41-year rule. (Libya TV via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Libyan U.N. ambassador Shalgham is embraced by Dabbashi, Libya's deputy U.N. Ambassador after denouncing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for the first time during a Security Council meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on Feb. 25. Shalgam, a longtime friend and member of Gadhafi's inner circle, had previously refused to denounce Gadhafi. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Thousands of Libyans gather for the Muslim Friday prayers outside the courthouse in the eastern city of Benghazi on Feb. 25, 2011. Perhaps 8,000 people gathered for the midday prayers with a local imam, who delivered his sermon alongside the coffins of three men killed in the violent uprising that routed Gadhafi loyalists from Benghazi. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Rebels hold a young man at gunpoint, who they accuse of being a loyalist to Gadhafi, between the towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf, March 3, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pro-Gadhafi soldiers and supporters gather in Green Square in Tripoli, March 6, 2011. Thousands of Moammar Gadhafi's supporters poured into the streets of Tripoli, waving flags and firing their guns in the air in the Libyan leader's main stronghold, claiming overnight military successes. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Rebel fighters jump away from shrapnel during heavy shelling by forces loyal to Gadhafi near Bin Jawad, March 6. Rebels in east Libya regrouped and advanced on Bin Jawad after Gadhafi forces ambushed rebel fighters and ejected them from the town earlier in the day. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Libyan rebel fighters take cover as a bomb dropped by an airforce fighter jet explodes near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 7, 2011. (Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Libyan rebels fire rockets at government troops on the frontline. March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf. The rebels pushed back government troops westward towards Ben Jawat. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Libyan government soldiers aboard tanks at the west gate of the town Ajdabiyah March 16, 2011. Libya's army pounded an opposition-held city in the country's west and battled fighters trying to block its advance on a rebel bastion in the east amid flagging diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed. EDITOR'S NOTE: Picture taken on a government guided tour. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Libyan people in Benghazi celebrate after the United Nations Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, March 18. Thousands of Libyans erupted in cheers as the news flashed on a giant screen in besieged Benghazi late March 17. After weeks of discussion, the UN Security Council banned flights in Libya's airspace and authorized "all necessary means" to implement the ban, triggering intervention by individual countries and organizations like NATO. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A picture combo shows a Libyan jet bomber crashing after being apparently shot down in Benghazi on March 19, 2011 as the Libyan rebel stronghold came under attack. Air strikes and sustained shelling of the city's south sent thick smoke into the sky. (Patrick Baz / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Residents of Benghazi flee the city along the road toward Tobruk, in an attempt to escape fighting in their city, March 19, 2011. Gaddafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi, a city of 670,000 people, in an apparent attempt to pre-empt Western military intervention expected after a meeting of Western and Arab leaders in Paris. (Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Gadhafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A rebel fighter carries his weapon outside the northeastern Libyan town of Ajdabiyah, March 21, 2011. A wave of air strikes hit Gaddafi's troops around Ajdabiyah, a strategic town in the barren, scrub of eastern Libya that rebels aim to retake and where their fighters said they need more help. (Finbarr O'reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A Libyan rebel prays next to his gun on the frontline of the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, March 21, 2011. The international military intervention in Libya is likely to last "a while," a top French official said, echoing Moammar Gadhafi's warning of a long war ahead as rebels, energized by the strikes on their opponents. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Libyan rebels retreat as mortars from Gadhafi's forces are fired on them near the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, March 22, 2011. Coalition forces bombarded Libya for a third straight night, targeting the air defenses and forces of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, stopping his advances and handing some momentum back to the rebels, who were on the verge of defeat. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A Libyan man is comforted by hospital staff as he reacts after identifying his killed brother in the morgue of the Jalaa hospital in Benghazi, March 22, 2011. His brother was killed earlier in fighting around the city of Ajdabiya. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Volunteer fighters training at a rebel army training camp in Benghazi, March 29, 2011. Pro-government forces intensified their attacks on Libyan rebels, driving them back over ground they had taken in recent days. The rebels had reached Nawfaliya, but pulled back to Bin Jawad. (Manu Brabo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Smoke billows as seven explosions were reported in the tightly-guarded residence of leader Moammar Gadhafi and military targets in the suburb of Tajura. Two explosions also rocked the Libyan capital Tripoli on March 29, 2011, as NATO-led coalition aircraft had been seen in the skies over the capital. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A Libyan rebel urges people to leave, as shelling from Gadhafi's forces started landing on the frontline outside of Bin Jawaad, 93 miles east of Sirte, March 29, 2011. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. General Abdel-Fattah Younis, former interior minister in the Gadhafi regime who defected in the early days of the uprising, is greeted by Libyan rebels at the front line near Brega, April 1, 2011. (Altaf Qadri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Libyan men show the V-sign for victory as they stand on the deck of a Turkish ship arriving from Misrata to the port of Benghazi who were evacuated along with others the injured in the fighting between rebel and Gadhafi forces, April 03, 2011. The Turkish vessel took hundreds of people wounded in the Libyan uprising for treatment in Turkey from the two cities of Misrata and Benghazi. (Mahmud Hams / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A wounded prisoner from Gadhafi's forces is transported in the back of a pickup truck by rebels, on the way to a hospital for treatment, half way between Brega and Ajdabiya, April 9, 2011. Rebels say they took two prisoners after a clash with soldiers near Brega's university outside the government-controlled oil facilities, marking a noticeable advance by rebels. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. In this image taken from TV, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi makes a pubic appearance in Tripoli, April 14 2011. Gadhafi defiantly waved at his supporters while being driven around Tripoli while standing up through the sunroof of a car. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A rebel fighter celebrates as his comrades fire a rocket barrage toward the positions of government troops April 14, 2011, west of Ajdabiyah. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Gadhafi supporters hold copies of his portrait as they gather at the Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, April 15, 2011. Rebels held much of eastern Libya by mid-April, while Gadhafi controlled the west, with the front line shifting back and forth in the middle. (Pier Paolo Cito / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Doctors work on a baby who suffered cuts from shrapnel that blasted through the window of his home during fighting in the besieged city of Misrata, April 18, 2011. Thousands of civilians are trapped in Misrata as fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels there. The Libyan government has come under international criticism for using heavy weapons and artillery in its assault on Misrata. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. MISRATA, LIBYA - APRIL 20: Libyan rebel fighters discuss how to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from the next room during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi April 20, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building that fought back instead of surrendering, firing on the rebels in the building and seriously wounding two of them during the standoff. Fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels ensconced there. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images) (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Libyan rebel fighters carry out a comrade wounded during an effort to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from a building during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Gaddafi, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building where they fought back instead of surrendering. Two rebels were seriously wounded during the standoff. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Rebels tread carefully as they prepare to invade a house where soldiers from the pro-government forces had their base in the Zwabi area of Misrata on April 24, 2011. (Andre Liohn / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Libyans inspect damage and an unexploded missile at the Gadhafi family compound in a residential area of Tripoli, May 1, 2011. Gadhafi escaped a NATO missile strike in Tripoli that killed one of his sons and three young grandchildren. EDITOR'S NOTE: Photo taken on a government guided tour. (Darko Bandic / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Moammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, center, leaves the funeral of his brother Saif Al-Arab Gadhafi, who was killed during air strikes by coalition forces, at the El Hani cemetery in Tripoli, May 2, 2011. Crowds chanting Gadhafi's name gathered in Tripoli for the funeral of his son and three grandchildren. (Louafi Larbi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Fleeing migrants and Libyans are seen on board an International Organization of Migration ship leaving the port of Misrata on May 4, 2011, as Gadhafi forces continued to pound the city. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Libyan men watch as the main fuel depot in Libya's third largest city, Misrata, burns following a bombing by Gadhafi's forces on May 7, 2011. Libyan regime forces shelled fuel depots in Misrata and dropped mines into its harbor using helicopters bearing the Red Cross emblem, rebels said as they braced for a ground assault. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Libyan rebels celebrate near the airport of Misrata on May 11, 2011 after capturing the city's strategic airport following a fierce battle with Moammar Gadhafi's troops -- their first significant advance in weeks. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Women react after a protest against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Benghazi, Libya, on May 16, 2011. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, announced that he would seek arrest warrants against the leader of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the country's intelligence chief on charges of crimes against humanity. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Tripoli street in Misrata is seen from the terrace of a building used by Gadhafi’s snipers before the rebels took control of the area on May 22, 2011. The weeks-long siege of the city ended in mid-May and Tripoli Street was the site of the fiercest fighting in the battle and a turnin point in the war. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A rebel fighter gives water to a soldier loyal to Gadhafi after he was wounded and then captured near the front line, west of Misrata on May 23, 2011. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. An uncle, left, prays over the body of one and a half year-old Mohsen Ali al-Sheikh during a washing ritual during the funeral at his family's house in Misrata, May 27, 2011. The child was killed by a gunshot during clashes between rebels and pro-Gadhafi forces earlier in the day. (Wissam Saleh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. The body of a drowned refugee floats near a capsized ship which was transporting an estimated 850 refugees from Libya, approximately 22 miles north of the Tunisian islands of Kerkennah, June 4, 2011. At least 578 survived the sinking. (Lindsay Mackenzie / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. A photograph taken from a video by a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows Mutassem Gadhafi, son of Moammar Gadhafi, drinking water and smoking a cigarette following his capture and shortly before his death, in Sirte, Oct. 20, 2011. (- / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A photograph taken from mobile phone video of a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows the capture of Moammar Gadhafi in Sirte on Oct. 20, 2011. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. This image provided by the Libyan Youth Group on Nov. 19, 2011, shows Seif al-Islam Gadhafi after he was captured near the Niger border with Libya. Moammar Gadhafi's son, the only wanted member of the ousted ruling family to remain at large, was captured as he traveled with aides in a convoy in Libya's southern desert. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: A photo said to show people gathering during recent days' unrest in Benghazi, Libya. The content, date and location of the image could not be independently verified.
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    Above: Slideshow (81) Conflict in Libya
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    Slideshow (34) Moammar Gadhafi through the years

Interactive: Libya uprising: The latest

Explainer: Military action in Libya

  • Image: A rebel fighter looks at burning vehicles after a coalition air strike
    Goran Tomasevic  /  Reuters
    A rebel fighter looks at burning vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT)

    Pentagon officials say the allied bombardment has been successful so far in diminishing Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses, while the embattled Libyan leader vowed a "long war" with the West.

    Here's a look at key players and issues surrounding the U.N.-mandated military action in Libya.

  • Meeting in Paris

    Image: World leaders
    Lionel Bonaventure  /  Pool via Reuters
    France's President Nicolas Sarkozy speaks with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, right, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon, left.

    World leaders gathered in Paris to discuss the course of action regarding Libya after the U.N. Security Council passed resolution 1973 that demands a cease-fire and a complete end to violence against civilians. Here what leaders had to say.

  • France

    Image: Paris Summit on Libya
    Lionel Bonaventure / Pool  /  EPA
    France president Nicolas Sarkozy.

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy

    "It's a grave decision we've had to take. Along with our Arab, European and North American partners, France has decided to play its part before history.

    "This is why, in agreement with our partners, our air forces will counter any aggression by Colonel Gadhafi's aircraft against the population of Benghazi. As of now, our planes are preventing air attacks on the city of Benghazi. As of now, other French aircraft are ready to intervene against armored vehicles which threaten unarmed civilians.

    "Colonel Gadhafi has scorned our warnings. In the past few hours his forces have intensified their murderous offensive.

    "The Libyan people need our aid and support. It's our duty.

    "We are doing it to protect the civilian population from the murderous madness of a regime that in killing its own people has lost all legitimacy.

    "There is still time for Colonel Gadhafi to avoid the worst, by acting without delay and without reservations in accordance with all the demands of the international community. The door of international diplomacy will open again the moment attacks end."

  • Britain

    Image: France's President Sarkozy greets Britain's Prime Minister Cameron at the Elysee Palace ahead of wider international talks on Libya in Paris
    Gonzalo Fuentes  /  Reuters
    Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron

    "Colonel Gadhafi has made this happen. He has lied to the international community, he has promised a cease-fire, he has broken that cease-fire.

    "He continues to brutalize his own people so the time for action has come. It needs to be urgent, we have to enforce the will of the United Nations and we cannot allow the slaughter of civilians to continue.

    "Obviously at this time our thoughts should be with those who are going to risk their lives to help the lives of others. I think it is vitally important that, with the United Nations behind us, with the clear legality of this action, and with local countries supporting us as well, it is right to act.

    "Of course, there are dangers. There are difficulties. There will always be unforeseen consequences of taking action. But it is better to take this action than to risk the consequences of inaction, which is the further slaughter of civilians by this dictator flouting the United Nations and its will."

  • United States

    Image: Clinton makes remarks on U.S. opportunities in the Americas at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington
    JONATHAN ERNST  /  Reuters
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

    "We have said from the start that Arab leadership and participation in this effort is crucial.

    "(Intervention) is to protect civilians and it is to provide access for humanitarian assistance.

    "Further delays will only put more civilians at risk.

    "We did not lead this. We did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who believe as Gadhafi  is unfortunately doing so now."

  • Germany

    Image: German Chancellor Merkel attends German Bundestag session in Berlin
    TOBIAS SCHWARZ  /  Reuters
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel

    "We are united that the war must be ended. The resolution must be pushed through.

    "We will not take part in the action in military terms. We will take on additional responsibilities in Afghanistan.

    "No one will succeed in dividing the international community in its determination. We stand united at the side of the Libyan people and stand united that the Gadhafi 's war against his own people must be ended and a cease-fire must be implemented.

    "I have called for a comprehensive oil embargo because this would hit the Libyan regime hard.

    "We are ready to relieve NATO particularly in its AWACS capabilities by taking on additional responsibilities in Afghanistan... Also we will naturally be prepared for the American bases in Germany to be used for military action.

    "The next few days will be decisive.

    "I believe that the presence also of the countries that are not participating militarily is very important because we have made clear that the resolution counts and this resolution must now be implemented. We will not participate militarily in the action."

  • European Union

    Image: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Ashton addresses a news conference in Brussels
    THIERRY ROGE  /  Reuters
    European High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.

    EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton

    "The UN Security Council resolution 1973 has sent a strong and unequivocal message to Colonel Gadhafi : the violence against the people must stop immediately, the Libyan population must be protected.

    "Colonel Gadhafi  had and still has a choice to make. Either he abides immediately by the UNSC resolution or the international community will have no choice but to continue to act. I hope he will listen to the demands of the Libyan people, the European Union, the Arab League, the African Union and fulfill all the conditions set out by the international community in the UNSC resolution."

  • Italy

    Image: Silvio Berlusconi
    Thibault Camus  /  AP
    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

    "I have proposed that the military coordination of the operation be in the NATO base at Naples.

    "For the time being we are making the bases available but, if they request it, even military intervention (is possible)."

  • Spain

    Image: Spanish PM Rodriguez Zapatero speaks during a joint news conference with UN Secretary-General Ban after their meeting in Madrid
    ANDREA COMAS  /  Reuters
    Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

    Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

    "The Libyan regime has not complied with the United Nations' resolution. It still has a chance to comply, immediately. That is the first demand of this meeting: immediate compliance."

  • United Nations

    Image: Ban Ki-moon meets Zapatero
    Chema Moya  /  EPA
    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

    U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon

    "Everything depends upon how Libyan authorities will comply with the Security Council resolutions. I again urge, in the strongest possible terms, that Libyan authorities must fully comply with resolutions and they must immediately stop these military hostilities."

  • Military buildup

    Image: An F-18 Hornet jet fighter maneuvers over the NATO airbase of Birgi, Italy
    Carmelo Imbesi  /  AP
    An F-18 Hornet jet fighter maneuvers over the NATO airbase of Birgi, near Trapani, Sicily, Italy, March 19, 2011.

    Here's a look at some of the international military assets in or heading to the region to help enforce the U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya:

  • U.S.

    — After barrage of attacks by sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles March 19, an array of U.S. warplanes — including several Air force B-2 stealth bombers — followed in the pre-dawn hours Sunday with a coordinated assault using precision-guided bombs

    —Navy EA-18G Growlers launched from unspecified land bases to provide electronic warfare support over Libya.

    —Marine AV-8B Harriers from the USS Kearsarge sailing in the Mediterranean conducted strikes against Gadhafi's ground forces and air defenses.

  • France

    —Deployed eight Rafale and four Mirage jets to survey rebel-held Benghazi; one fired on a Libyan military vehicle in first military strike of operation.

    —Six C-135 refueling tankers

    —1 AWACS surveillance plane

    —Deployed the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to the region from Toulon, accompanied by the anti-submarine frigate Dupleix, the Aconit frigate and a refueling ship, La Meuse.

  • Britain

    —Tornado GR4 jets in air raid over Libya early Sunday; more Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets deployed to the Gioia del Colle airbase in southern Italy to give them easier access to targets in Libya.

    —Tomahawk missiles fired from a Trafalgar Class submarine in the Mediterranean.

    —Britain's air base in southern Cyprus, RAF Akrotiri, is hosting VC-10, RAF E3D and Sentinel surveillance aircraft, which also provide re-fueling capability

    —Two British frigates, HMS Westminster and HMS Cumberland, are in the Mediterranean off Libya's coast.

  • Canada

    —Sent six F-18s to Italy base; 140 military personnel involved.

    —Frigate HMCS Charlottetown is in Mediterranean for possible staging ground for Canadian forces.

  • Italy

    —Offered use of seven military bases: U.S. air bases at Sigonella, Sicily and Aviano in northern Italy; Italian air bases in Amendola near Foggia, Decimomannu in Sardinia, Gioia del Colle near Bari, base on Sicilian island of Pantelleria, and the military airport of Trapani, Sicily.

    —Proposed NATO base in Naples serve as coordination point for operation.

    —Placed eight aircraft, four Tornados and four fighter jets, under command of coalition forces.

    —Aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, with the eight aircraft aboard, has been conducting air and sea surveillance missions for several days.

    —Destroyer Andrea Doria, which has anti-aircraft and anti-missile equipment, protecting Italian territory from Libyan retaliation.

  • Denmark

    —Six F-16s arrived at U.S. air base in Sigonella, Sicily and could be deployed as early as March 20; 132 support staff.

  • Norway

    —Offered six F-16s, with around 100 support staff, but operational capabilities five-six days off.

    —Considering contributing an Orion maritime surveillance plane.

  • Belgium

    —8 Belgian F-16s and 200 air force personnel are now at the Greek air base of Araxos west of Athens, the Belga news agency reported. They will be ready to start flying missions on March 21.

  • U.N. mandate

    Image: Libyan rebels in Benghazi celebrate UN resolution
    EPA
    Libyan people celebrate after the United Nations Security Council authorizes a no-fly zone over Libya on March 18, 2011.

    Key elements in the resolution adopted March 17 by the U.N. Security Council authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from attacks by Moammar Gadhafi's forces:

  • 'Measures'

    — Demands "the immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians."

    — Demands that Libyan authorities "take all measures to protect civilians and meet their basic needs, and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance."

    — Authorizes U.N. member states "to take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory."
    — Asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to establish an eight-member panel of experts to help the U.N. sanctions committee monitor implementation of sanctions against Libya.

  • Bans

    — Decides "to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians," but says humanitarian flights and flights authorized by the U.N. and Arab League can take place.

    — Strengthens the arms embargo imposed on Feb. 26 by calling on U.N. member states "to inspect in their territory, including airports and seaports, and on the high seas, vessels and aircraft bound to or from" Libya if the country has information with "reasonable grounds" to believe the cargo contains banned military items, or that armed mercenaries are being transported.

    — Orders all states to prevent any Libyan owned, operated, or registered aircraft — or any aircraft believed to be carrying prohibited weapons or mercenaries — to take off, land or overfly their territory without prior approval from the U.N. committee monitoring sanctions.

    — Adds travel bans on the Libyan ambassador to Chad and the governor of Ghat, both directly involved in recruiting mercenaries for the Gadhafi regime.

  • Asset freeze

    — Extends an asset freeze to seven more individuals including three additional Gadhafi children, the defense minister, the director of military intelligence, the director of the external security organization, and the secretary for utilities.

    — Freezes the assets of five key financial institutions: the Central Bank, the Libyan Investment Authority, the Libyan Foreign Bank, Libyan Africa Investment Portfoilio, and the Libyan National Oil Corporation.

    — Asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to establish an eight-member panel of experts to help the U.N. sanctions committee monitor implementation of sanctions against Libya.

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