British forces strike against Libya air defences

British forces yesterday took part in a “co-ordinated strike against Libyan air defence systems”, the country’s military said.“I can confirm that British armed forces have participated in another co-ordinated strike against Libyan air defence systems,” Chief of Defence Staff’s Strategic Communications Officer Major General John Lorimer said in a defence ministry (MoD) statement.

“For a second time, the UK has launched guided Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) from a Trafalgar Class submarine in the Mediterranean as part of a coordinated coalition plan to enforce the (UN) resolution,” Lorimer added.

The attacks marked the second day of Britain’s participation in an operation to enforce a UN-sanctioned no-fly zone over the north-African nation. 

Britain said earlier Sunday its initial overnight air and sea strikes had been “very successful” and stressed it was doing everything it could to avoid civilian casualties.

Yesterday’s attack came hours after Tornado fighter jets, similar to those used to fire Storm Shadow cruise missiles at Libyan targets on Saturday, were seen taking off from Marham air base in east England.

The Trafalgar Class submarine was also involved in the first wave of attacks with US forces which saw more than 110 Tomahawk missiles fired at some 20 air defence targets.

Earlier yesterday, the British government said it would consider Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s promise of a ceasefire on “actions not words.”

“Everyone will recall that in recent days Colonel Gaddafi declared a ceasefire which was promptly violated,” a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said after a meeting of a new sub-committee formed to deal with the Libyan conflict.

“We said then we would judge him on his actions not his words, and we will do so again,” the spokesman continued.

A Libyan official told AFP that at least 48 people had died in the opening assaults, which began with a strike at 1645 GMT Saturday by a French warplane on a vehicle the French military said belonged to pro-Gaddafi forces.

But British ministers and officials said they were only hitting military targets needed to bring down Libya’s air defence network and enforce the no-fly zone agreed by the United Nations Security Council.

Fox earlier said the Libyan regime was “engaged in a propaganda exercise”, saying: “We are using some very specific types of weaponry designed to minimise any civilian casualties or other collateral damage.”

Acutely aware of the controversies in Britain’s involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Cameron has gone to great lengths to defend the intervention, which is the first time he has sent troops into action since becoming premier.

The action is being taken under Thursday’s UN Security Council resolution which authorised the use of “all necessary means” to protect civilians and enforce a ceasefire and no-fly zone against Gaddafi’s forces.

Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the US army, told the BBC that assertions the military action was being undertaken purely to enforce the no-fly zone were “misleading”.

“Certainly a no-fly zone is taking place but frankly that’s not the purpose,” the retired general said. “The purpose is clearly to use our airpower to destroy his decisive forces, which are his two armoured brigades.

The Arab League on Sunday criticised the military strikes, a week after urging the UN to slap a no-fly zone on the north African state.

Britain’s Foreign Office (FCO) responded later Sunday, saying: “Unlike Gaddafi, the coalition is not attacking civilians.

“We will continue to work with our Arab partners to enforce the resolution for the good of the Libyan people,” vowed the FCO.

The British defence secretary said the frigate HMS Westminster was off the coast of Libya, and another, HMS Cumberland, was in the region ready to support operations.

Typhoon jets on Sunday arrived at the Gioia del Colle base in southern Italy, where they are ready to deploy against Libya in the mission dubbed
“Operation Ellamy.”

British lawmakers are due to vote on military action in parliament on Monday but the main opposition has already pledged its full support.

No comments:

Post a Comment