April 23, 2011
NATO fighter jets have conducted fresh aerial attacks on the Libyan capital of Tripoli, followed by outbursts of anti-aircraft fire as the Libyan regime planned to withdraw from the city of Misratah.
On Saturday morning, the Libyan capital woke to the crackle of heavy machine-gun fire after NATO warplanes carried out several airstrikes against the positions of forces loyal to Libya’s embattled ruler Muammar Gaddafi in the west of the city, AFP quoted Al-Libya television as saying.
At least two people were killed late Friday after NATO warplanes flew over Gaddafi’s stronghold throughout the day.
The latest spate of attacks comes as Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim has said the Libyan army will pull out of the besieged northwestern city of Misratah and allow the local tribes to resolve their conflict on their own.
The humanitarian situation in Libya’s third-largest city with a population of more than half a million has significantly deteriorated amid shortage of food, water and medical supplies as a result of a seven-week siege.
On Friday, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen acknowledged that the Libyan civil war is sliding toward a “stalemate” as troops loyal to Gaddafi have tightened the noose around the opposition forces in Misratah as well as other opposition-controlled cities in the North African country.
“It’s certainly moving toward a stalemate,” said Mullen in a speech to US troops following his visit to Iraq on Thursday.
The top US military commander claimed, however, that NATO-led aerial attacks have downgraded 30 to 40 percent of Libya’s ground forces.
Meanwhile, senior US Republican Senator John McCain visited the opposition-held city of Benghazi in eastern Libya on Friday, calling on the Obama administration to “re-engage” militarily to facilitate the demise of Gaddafi’s regime.
The visit came a day after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that US President Barack Obama has given military commanders the go ahead to use CIA-operated Predator drones in Libya to target pro-Gaddafi troops.
On March 19, NATO forces started airstrikes on Libya in order to end the humanitarian crisis in the African nation, in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Many civilians have been killed in Libya since US-led forces launched aerial attacks on the country.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says the Libyan conflict has so far left 10,000 people dead and 55,000 injured.
This article was posted: Saturday, April 23, 2011 at 4:22 am