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US fighter jet crashes in war-torn Libya

Last updated on: March 22, 2011 21:45 IST

US fighter jet crashes in war-torn Libya

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A United States war plane crash landed in Libya as coalition forces hit several defence targets across Tripoli on Tuesday. But there was no let up by Muammar Gaddafi's military which pounded rebel-held towns of Misurata and Ajdabiya.

A US Air Force F-15E crashed near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi overnight due to a mechanical failure. The US military said both crew members ejected and are now safe, adding that the crash was likely caused by mechanical failure and not hostile fire.

Fighting between Gaddafi's forces and the rebels continued with government troops shelling Misurata, intensifying their siege of the western city, 200 km east of the capital.


Image: People look at a US Air Force F-15E fighter jet after it crashed near the eastern city of Benghazi
Photographs: Suhaib Salem/Reuters
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Gaddafi pounds rebel-held areas

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Government troops also engaged rebels in the eastern town of Ajdabiya, where heavy fighting and shelling was going on, Al Jazeera said.

Amid indications that the 'no-fly' zone over Libya was going to be widened to cover almost 1,000 kms, the allied firepower also targeted Gaddafi's stronghold of Zuwarah, Sirte, Sebha as well as Ajdabiya.

US President Barack Obama has said that the transition to the coalition against Libya would be based on conditions on the ground, but anticipated this to happen in matter of days.


Image: A man carries his son as they stand at a destroyed US Air Force F-15E fighter jet after it crashed
Photographs: Suhaib Salem/Reuters
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'The mission has been completed'

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"How quickly this transfer takes place will be determined by the recommendations of our commanding officers that the mission has been completed," he said at a joint news conference with his Chilean counterpart Sebastian Pinera in Santiago, Chile.

As the missile and air strikes continued for the third day, a top US general claimed that the coalition forces had virtually frozen Gaddafi's advance in the key rebel city of Benghazi, handing back some momentum to the rebels, who were on the verge of being overrun just last week.


Image: Bullet and shell-scarred revolutionary graffiti are seen on a wall in Ajdabiyah
Photographs: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters
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'Heavy fighting is going on'

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"The sky above the Libyan capital lit up with anti-aircraft fire after explosions were heard again on Monday night," a BBC correspondent reported from the city.

Four children were killed while trying to flee their home in Misurata, a rebel spokesman was quoted as saying by the Arab channel.

Rebel fighters were on the retreat amid an attack by government forces in the eastern town of Ajdabiya, where fierce fighting continued.

"There's been heavy fighting and heavy shelling going on ... the rebels told me there have been heavy casualties and there are a number of corpses between here and the town [of Ajdabiya] that they have been unable to reach," the Al Jazeera said.


Image: A makeshift grave lies near the front line outside Ajdabiyah
Photographs: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters
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Missile hits Colonel Gaddafi's compound

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It said the road between the eastern city of Benghazi and Ajdabiya was littered with the "burned-out wreckage of what was Gaddafi's armour and tanks," destroyed in air raids by coalition forces.

The Libyan television reported that a missile hit a spot near Colonel Gaddafi's sprawling Bab al-Aziza compound. Similar explosions rocked the capital on Sunday night with coalition officials saying an administrative command and control centre in Gaddafi's fortified complex had been destroyed by a cruise missile.

The state television also said that a Libyan naval base, 10 kms east of the capital, was also hit on Monday night. Al Jazeera said the Bussetta base was completely destroyed by missile and air attacks.


Image: A rebel fighter prays beside his weapon outside Ajdabiyah
Photographs: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters
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Libyan government forces continue strikes

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Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said that southern town of Sebha, the bastion of Gaddafi's Guedefa tribe, had also been attacked and these strikes had caused numerous civilian casualties.

Though battered by constant air and missile strikes, Libyan government forces continued to engage in scattered fighting, defying the UN resolution which demand an immediate ceasefire by Gaddafi's troops and an end to attack on civilians.

While Gaddafi's spokesman claimed that the government troops have stormed into the city three days ago, a rebel spokesman said that street fighting was on in the city and they have repelled Gaddafi's men.


Image: A demonstrator holds a poster with the picture of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi
Photographs: Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters
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Gaddafi's snipers have shot dead more than 40 people

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The Arab channel quoted witnesses as saying that Gaddafi's tanks and snipers have shot dead more than 40 people and left 400 wounded in battles on the outskirts of the city.

Taking advantage of a heavy toll taken by coalition bombers on Gaddafi's tanks and armoured vehicles, the ragtag rebels chased the retreating columns of government troops right into the outskirts of Ajdabiya, but were beaten back by heavily armed forces manning the city defences.

On the way, the rebels have swept into the oil port off Zwitina, just northeast of Ajdabiya, which was the scene of heavy fighting last week.


Image: A supporter of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi chants slogans during a daily protest at Green Square
Photographs: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
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'Attacking Gaddafi is not the mission'

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Meanwhile, a top US commander in the region, General Carter Ham, said moves were afoot to extend a no-fly zone in Libya to cover "about 1,000 kms" from Benghazi to Tripoli.

Briefing Pentagon reporters on the situation over satellite from Germany, Ham claimed that three nights of strikes had almost degraded Gaddafi's capabilities to wage a war on his people. He said that Gaddafi's forces in the vicinity of Benghazi "now possess little will or capability to resume offensive operations."

General Ham said he had little indication of the whereabouts of Gaddafi or his family. "Locating or attacking Gaddafi is not the mission of the coalition military," he said.


Image: A rebel fighter rests on the back of a vehicle outside Ajdabiyah
Photographs: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters
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UN turns down Libya's plea

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Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council will meet later this week to discuss whether the current military action in Libya is in line with what its resolution authorised.

"There will be a substantive discussion and people will naturally want to look at the text of 1973 (resolution) and then see whether this is compliance or less or more," said Hardeep Singh Puri, India's envoy to the UN.

The 15-member body on Monday rejected a request by Libya to convene an emergency meeting to halt what the country's Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa described as "military aggression" by the US and France.


Image: Mourners pray next to coffins containing bodies of Libyans killed by Gaddafi's forces
Photographs: Suhaib Salem/Reuters
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