International air strikes give Libya rebels control of city
International air strikes on Libya have meant rebel forces have been able to push government troops back and regain control of the city of Ajdabiyah.
The fall of the eastern city follows a week of coalition action against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s army.
The rebel victory was aided by missile strikes by RAF Tornados and Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released new footage of the mission carried out by Tornado GR4 aircraft on Friday afternoon.
Major General John Lorimer said: “The Tornado aircraft launched a number of guided Brimstone missiles, destroying three armoured vehicles in Misratah and two further armoured vehicles in Ajdabiyah.
“Brimstone is a high precision, low collateral damage weapon optimised against demanding and mobile targets.
“Britain and her international partners remain engaged in operations to support United Nations Security Resolution 1973, to enforce the established no-fly zone and are contributing to the Nato arms embargo of Libya.”
Rebels said they had also seized control of the oil port of Brega, 70 km (45 miles) west along the Mediterranean coast from Ajdabiyah.
The town, the site of an oil export terminal and refinery, sprawls over a large area and overall control can be hard to determine.
“Brega is 100% in the hands of liberating forces,” said Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a rebel spokesman in Benghazi.
Col Gaddafi’s regime has acknowledged that the air strikes had forced its troops to withdraw and accused international forces of choosing sides in the battle.
“This is the objective of the coalition now. It is not to protect civilians because now they are directly fighting against the armed forces,” deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said in Tripoli.
“They are trying to push the country to the brink of a civil war.”
In Misratah, the only big insurgent stronghold left in Libya’s west, cut off from the main rebel force to the east, shelling by Col Gaddafi’s forces fell silent on Saturday when Western coalition planes appeared in the sky, rebels said.
France said its warplanes had destroyed five Libyan aircraft and two helicopters at an air base near the city.
The US has also released footage of one of its navy warships, the USS Stout, launching Tomahawk missiles towards Libya.
The recapturing of Ajdabiyah is the first major turnaround for the uprising and rebels celebrated by firing into the air and dancing on the burnt-out tanks of Gaddafi’s forces.
Ajdabiyah’s original fall to the dictator’s troops prompted the UN resolution authorising international action in the north African country.
The operation has led to fears in Britain that Col Gaddafi could take revenge for the country’s involvement in air attacks if he remains in power.
On Saturday Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke warned that the dictator could retaliate by staging another Lockerbie-style terror attack.
The United States Defence Secretary Robert Gates meanwhile has claimed that intelligence reports indicate the bodies of Libyans killed by Gaddafi’s forces have been placed at sites bombed by coalition forces in an attempt to blame the West for the deaths.
Libya said last week nearly 100 civilians had been killed in the strikes.
Western military officials have denied the claim.
Source: Sky News