U.S. Jet’s Crew Safe After Bailing Out Over Libya

As Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi crowd, “I do not scare,” the Untied States Tuesday got back two crew members whose F-15E malfunctioned and said it will be able to hand over command of the coalition that has hammered loyalist military positions over four days.

Meanwhile, fighting raged in Misrata, east of the capital, where a witness claimed Gaddafi has placed snipers on the tops of buildings.

Also Tuesday, the commander of the U.S. Naval forces in Europe and Africa said multinational air strikes would continue until Gaddafi compiles with a United Nations mandate to stop attacking civilians.

Americans “are going to be satisfied that lives were saved” by the U.S. military action, President Barack Obama said during a visit to El Salvador. He said the timetable for a transition of military leadership will be in coming days, rather than weeks. (CNN)

So far, the LIbyan leader is violating the Security Council resolution by “continued aggressive actions his forces have taken against the civilian population,” Adm. Samuel Locklear Ill said. (CNN)

Gaddafi vowed Tuesday to emerge victorious in his battle with international forces seeking to impose a no-fly zone in his country and to halt his forces from attacking civilians. “We will not give up,” he said to a crowd of supporters, many of them waving green flags in a speech broadcast on state television. “They will not terrorize us. We are making fun of their rockets. The Libyans are laughing at these rockets. We will defeat them by any method.” He said Libyans “are leading the international war against imperialism, against despots and I tell you, I do not scare.” (CNN)

The U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle had flown from Aviano air base in Italy to Libya when the fighter experienced mechanical problems, the U.S. military command for Africa said in a statement. Both the pilot and the weapons officer ejected and were rescued within hours – one retrieved by the U.S. military, the other by anti-Gaddafi Libyans. The aviators, who suffered minor injuries when they landed, were both out of Libya and in U.S. hands, Locklear said.

The U.S. military dispatched a pair of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, about 100 miles off the coast of Libya, to rescue the downed aviators, said Capt. Richard Ulsh, spokesman for the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

But the two men landed in different places when they parachuted down, and the U.S. rescue crew was able to pick up only the pilot. He was flown to the Kearsarge, which has extensive medical facilities.

Libyan rebels recovered the second crew member and treated him with “respect and dignity” until coalition forces were able to reach him, Locklear said. (CNN) Residents in the area, some of whom witnessed the crash, told CNN they combed farmlands to search for the two Americans. They also expressed their gratitude to coalition members for the United Nations-authorized attack on Libyan air defence targets meant to protect civilians.

One Libyan who came across the crashed jet told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that one pilot held his hands in the air and said, “OK, OK,” but was quickly thanked by locals for his participation in the air strikes. Younis Amruni told the Telegraph: “I hugged him and said ‘don’t be scared, we are your friends’.” (BBC)

Locklear said he would investigate reports villagers were injured when allied forces opened fire during rescue operations. “The recovery mission from my perspective was executed as I would have expected it to be given the circumstances,” he said. (CNN)

Criticism and questions persist about the Libyan campaign, with no clear answer on who will take over command of the military operation and what the end game or exit strategy will be. But U.S. officials said the international mission has succeeded in halting Gaddafi’s momentum.

Locklear told reporters that initial military strikes by the French followed by attacks by Britain and the United States have rendered Gaddafi’s long-range air defences and his air force largely ineffective. And the Libyan opposition’s newly formed administration urged the international community to continue enforcing the United Nations Charter.

“The interim national council has called on the international community to take all forceful deterrent measures, based on the U.N. charter and international covenants, to help the Libyan people put an end to further crimes against the humanity,” the statement from the Transitional National Council said. (CNN)

Missiles rained down Tuesday and anti-aircraft fire pierced the night sky in Tripoli hours before dawn.

In Tripoli, Reuters correspondents said some residents, emboldened by a third night of air strikes, dropped their customary praise of Gaddafi and said they wanted him gone. “My children are afraid but I know it’s changing,” one man said. “This is the end. The government has no control any more.” (Reuters)

The Libyan government took international journalists to a port area that appeared to have been damaged by missile strikes that left craters 15 feet deep. A destroyed mobile rocket launcher system lay smoldering. Several warehouses were hit. Some directed journalists to the rebellious neighbourhoods of Tajura and Feshloom. “People are very afraid, honestly,” one man said. “They killed a lot of people in Tripoli, including one of my relatives. You have to be careful. They are watching right now.” (New York Times)

The United States fired 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya during a 12-hour period, said military spokeswoman Cmdr. Monica Rousselow. A total of 159 Tomahawks have been fired by the United States and Britain since the start Saturday of Operation Odyssey Dawn, which includes enforcement of a no-fly zone.

The international operation has targeted air defence sites and command centers, but Gaddafi himself has not been targeted, and there are no plans to kill the leader, said Gen. Carter Ham, the head of U.S. forces in Africa. “I could see accomplishing the military mission, which has been assigned to me, and the current leader would remain the current leader,” he said. “We think we have been very effective in degrading his ability to control his regime forces.” (CNN) Ham said no Libyan aircraft have been observed flying since the military operations began Saturday. And air attacks have stopped Libyan ground forces from approaching the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

But fighting raged in Misrata, a city under siege two hours east of Tripoli. Four children in the same family were killed among 13 civilians killed in Misrata fighting Tuesday, said Dr. Khaled Mansouri of Misrata Central Hospital. About 30 people were injured, he told CNN. The death toll from the clashes between Gaddafi forces and rebels in the city stands at 90 over the last five days.

An opposition spokesman who would give only his first name, Mohamed, told CNN the situation in the city is dire and worsening by the hour as Gaddafi forces have taken control of the main street that leads from the city center to a highway that connects Misrata to Tripoli. Loyalist snipers are on top of buildings, he said. The hospital is running out of medical supplies and are turning patients away, he said. “I have seen a man whose broken arm is hanging being discharged because of lack of space,” said Mohamed, who said he was not divulge his full name because of concern for his safety. He said the city has been without water and electricity for nine days. (CNN)

Violence has raged in Libya following protests calling for democracy and demanding an end to Gaddafi’s almost 42-year rule. Protesters have been met by force from the Gaddafi regime, and numerous world leaders – including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – have denounced the killings of civilians by Gaddafi’s troops.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution Thursday that allows member states “to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country… while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” (CNN) It also imposed a no-fly zone.

Barak Barfi, a research fellow with the New America Foundation, said “it’s certainly not clear” that the allied coalition has stymied the onslaught of Gaddafi troops against rebels in eastern Libya. “Before the decision in the U.N. was taken Thursday, it seemed like Gaddafi was going to overrun the opposition in a matter of days,” he said. But “it’s unclear if the rebels can form under any type of organized command and move forward now that the airstrikes have taken away Gaddafi’s offensive capabilities,” Barfi said Tuesday. “It’s unclear at this point in time who would take control after Gaddafi leaves. We know that there are really no state institutions in Libya.” (CNN)

Sheltering from tank fire behind sand dunes near Ajdabiyah, rebel fighters lack leadership, experience and any plan of action. One fighter, Mohamed Bhreka, asked who was in command, shrugged and said: “Nobody is. We are volunteers. We just come here. There is no plan.” (Reuters)

A former Gaddafi aide told CNN Tuesday that the Libyan strongman would not go down easily. Abubaker Saad said Gaddafi has several bunkers deep underground and is likely hiding in one of them. “As you probably all have noticed that now he is giving all of his statements by phone to the Libyan television,” Saad said. (CNN)

The Spanish parliament Tuesday approved the nation’s military participation in the coalition operating in Libya. Canadian and Belgian forces joined coalition forces Monday, and aircraft carriers from Italy and France have added “significant capability” in the region, Ham said.

Russia, which abstained in last week’s UN Security Council vote on the resolution authorizing force in Libya, has since criticized the air strikes. China has also urged all parties to “immediately cease fire and resolve issues through peaceful means.” (BBC)

The French on Tuesday suggested a new, overseeing political body to “unite the foreign ministers of the states that are intervening, along with those in the Arab League.” (BBC)

Turkey has also opposed a NATO command role as it said coalition air strikes had gone beyond what was authorized by the United Nations. However, its concerned had largely been settled, a senior U.S. official told reporters.

Qatar’s air force is expected to begin flying as part of the mission by the weekend, Locklear said.

The United Arab Emirates have been prepared to send two squadrons to participate in the international effort, said retired Maj. Gen. Khaled Abdullah Al-Buainnain, the former commander of the Emirates’ air force and air defence. However, he said, those plans have changed because of criticism by the United States and the European Union of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s deployment of troops to help the monarchy stabilize Bahrain. The UAE has chosen not to take a military role in Libya until Washington and the European Union clarify their position on the use of troops in Bahrain, but it will contribute to the humanitarian effort in Libya, Al-Buainnain said.

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