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West strikes Libya Forces NATO Sees 90 Day Campaign

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Posted by on Saturday, March 26, 2011, 10:48
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Western warplanes bombed Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks and artillery in eastern Libya on Friday to try to break a battlefield stalemate and help rebels take the strategic town of Ajdabiyah.

West strikes Libya Forces NATO
West strikes Libya Forces NATO

Rebels said they had entered Ajdabiyah from the east, Al Jazeera reported, while Gaddafi’s forces held on in the west of the town, which commands the coastal road toward Tripoli.

The African Union said it was planning to facilitate talks to help end the war, but NATO said its operation could last three months, and France said the conflict would not end soon.

In Washington, a U.S. military spokeswoman said the coalition fired 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles and flew 153 air sorties in the past 24 hours targeting Gaddafi’s artillery, mechanized forces and command and control infrastructure.

Western governments hope the raids, launched on Saturday with the aim of protecting civilians, will shift the balance of power in favor of the Arab world’s most violent popular revolt.

In Tripoli, residents reported another air raid just before dawn, hearing the roar of a warplane, followed by a distant explosion and bursts of anti-aircraft gunfire.

As the United States said Gaddafi’s ability to command and sustain his forces was diminishing, Libyan state TV said the “brother leader” had promoted all members of his armed forces and police “for their heroic and courageous fight against the crusader, colonialist assault,” without giving further details.

Rebels massing for an attack on Ajdabiyah earlier exchanged artillery fire with Gaddafi’s forces.

Opposition forces on the road there seemed more organized than in recent days, when their disarray stirred doubts about their ability to challenge Gaddafi.

They had set up road blocks at regular intervals and Reuters counted at least four truck-based rocket launchers — heavier weaponry than had been seen earlier this week.

Winning back Ajdabiyah would be the biggest victory for the eastern rebels since Western military intervention halted a counter-offensive by the better equipped Gaddafi forces which had driven them back toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

It would also signal that allied airstrikes may be capable of helping rebel fighters eventually topple Gaddafi.

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