France says Libyan military plane destroyed at Misrata

Coalition launches 14 missiles; French warplanes strike Libyan air base overnight, but fail to stop pro-Gaddafi forces from shelling rebels.

By REUTERS
March 24, 2011 18:09
2 minute read.
Libyans standing on a tank

libya tank celebration 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A French warplane fired an air-to-ground missile at a Libyan military plane and destroyed it just after it landed at Misrata air force base, a French armed forces spokesman said on Thursday.

"The French patrol carried out an air-to-ground strike with an AASM weapon just after the plane had landed at the Misrata airbase," the spokesman said, adding that the plane, belonging to Muammar Gaddafi's military, had breached the UN-imposed no-fly zone.

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A Libyan military source said on Thursday said that Western air strikes again hit a target in the Tajoura district of the Libyan capital which was struck overnight.

"There is an attack in the same place that was attacked this morning," the source, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters.

The military coalition led by the United States against Gaddafi launched 14 Tomahawk missiles overnight, the US military said on Thursday.

A spokesman for US Africa Command in Germany said coalition countries also dropped bombs on targets in Libya, where Gaddafi remains defiant as the international military campaign that began last week intensifies but said the number had not yet been confirmed.

French warplanes struck an air base in central Libya early on Thursday in a fifth night of bombardments by Western powers against Muammar Gaddafi's military, France's armed forces spokesman said.

Spokesman Thierry Burkhard told a news briefing that around 15 French planes were deployed on Wednesday and a dozen overnight, leading to missile strikes on an air base some 155 miles (250 km) inland from Libya's Mediterranean coast.

"We are not changing tack, action is continuing," Burkhard said.

Despite five nights of air strikes, Western warplanes failed to stop Gaddafi's forces shelling rebel-held towns in the west or dislodge his armor in the east.

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Air strikes destroyed government tanks on the outskirts of the rebel-held city of Misrata, but other tanks inside the city were not hit, a resident said.

Earlier on Thursday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe defended the pace of the coalition air operation, which has been spearheaded by France. He said five days was not long enough to achieve its goal of protecting civilians by crushing Gaddafi's counter-offensive against rebel forces.


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