Gaddafi attacks rebel towns, US plane down

Libyan leaders tanks shell Misrata - 40 killed; F-15 crashes due to mechanical failure, 1 of 2 crewman recovered.

By REUTERS
March 22, 2011 13:07
2 minute read.
F-16 fighter jet in flight

F-16 Fighter Jet 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

TRIPOLI - Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi attacked two Libyan towns on Tuesday after a third night of air raids on Tripoli, but the Western campaign faced questions over the future of its command structure.

With anti-Gaddafi rebels struggling to create a command structure than can capitalize on the air strikes against Libyan tanks and air defenses, western nations have still to decide who will run the operation once Washington pulls back.

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The United States will cede control of the air assault in days, President Barack Obama said, even as divisions in Europe fueled speculation that Washington would be forced to continue leadership of air patrols to replace the initial bombardment.

"We anticipate this transition to take place in a matter of days and not in a matter of weeks," Obama, facing questions at home about the US military getting bogged down in a third Muslim country, told a news conference on a visit to Chile.

A US Air Force F-15E crashed in Libya overnight and one crewman had been recovered and the other was "in the process of recovery," the US military said. The crash was likely caused by mechanical failure and not hostile fire, it said.

In the latest fighting on Tuesday, Gaddafi forces used tanks to shell the rebel-held western city of Misrata and casualties included four children killed when the car they were traveling in was hit, residents told Reuters. The death toll on Monday had reached 40, they said.

"The situation here is very bad. Tanks started shelling the town this morning," a resident, called Mohammed, told Reuters by telephone from outside the city's hospital, adding:

"Snipers are taking part in the operation too. A civilian car was destroyed killing four children on board, the oldest is aged 13 years."

Al Jazeera news network said Gaddafi forces were trying to seize the western rebel-held town of Zintan near the Tunisian border in an attack using heavy weapons. Residents had already fled the town center to seek shelter in mountain caves.

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