French war planes hit four Libyan tanks near Benghazi

Air strikes come after UN-mandated military intervention gets underway in Libya; around 20 planes surround Gaddafi's forces to prevent attacks on civilians in rebel stronghold.

By REUTERS
March 19, 2011 20:03
1 minute read.
French combat aircraft is en route to Libya.

French planes on Libya_311 reuters. (photo credit: REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)

PARIS - French air force jets have destroyed some tanks and armored vehicles during a UN-mandated intervention in Libya, a French defense ministry official said on Saturday.

"Yes, we have destroyed a number of tanks and armored vehicles," the official said, adding that he could not immediately confirm the number.

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Al Jazeera television reported earlier that four Libyan tanks had been destroyed to the south west of the Libyan city of Benghazi.

The first shot in the UN-mandated intervention in Libya was fired by a French aircraft and destroyed a military vehicle at around 1645 GMT, French defense ministry and army officials said.

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"A first target was engaged and destroyed," ministry spokesman Laurent Teisseire told reporters.

An armed forces spokesman told the same briefing that the operation to halt Muammar Gaddafi's advance on rebel forces involved around 20 planes and an area 100 km by 150 km (60 by 100 miles) around the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier will leave France for Libya on Sunday, the spokesman added. A central command center for the operation was still being set up.

Earlier Saturday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that Western air forces, with Arab League approval, had gone into action over Libya and were preventing Gaddafi's forces from attacking Benghazi.

"As of now, our planes are preventing air attacks on the city of Benghazi," he said adding that military action supported by France, Britain, the United States and Canada and backed by Arab nations could be halted if Gaddafi stopped his forces attacking.

Also Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Paris that the United States would bring its "unique capabilities" to bear to help its European and Canadian allies in enforcing a UN resolution on Libya.

"If the international community is to have credibility ... then action must take place," Clinton told a news conference.


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