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US fired missiles into Libya in 'limited action'

20 march 2011, 15:59
US missile strike in Libya @AFP
US missile strike in Libya @AFP
The United States has unleashed a barrage of Tomahawk missiles against the Libyan regime's air defenses, but ruled out using ground troops in what President Barack Obama called a "limited military action," AFP reports.

After taking a cautious stance on armed intervention in Libya's civil war, Obama ordered the strikes citing the threat posed to civilians by Moamer Kadhafi's forces and a UN-mandated no-fly zone endorsed by Arab countries.

"We must be clear: actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced," Obama told reporters while on an official visit to Brazil Saturday.

But with nearly 100,000 US troops fighting a protracted war in Afghanistan -- and with Saturday's missile strikes coming eight years to the day after the United States launched its war in Iraq -- Obama made clear that operation "Odyssey Dawn" would not send US troops to Libya.

"As I said yesterday, we will not -- I repeat -- we will not deploy any US troops on the ground," he said.

US warships and a British submarine fired at least 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya against Kadhafi's anti-aircraft missiles and radar, the US military said.

Admiral William Gortney told reporters at the Pentagon that the cruise missiles "struck more than 20 integrated air defense systems and other air defense facilities ashore."

The first missile struck at 1900 GMT following air strikes carried out earlier by French warplanes, said Gortney, director of the US joint staff.

"It's a first phase of a multi-phase operation" to enforce the UN resolution and prevent the Libyan regime from using force "against its own people," he said.

The missile strikes came despite skepticism in the US military over the risks of intervention, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates repeatedly expressing caution.

The US operation followed initial missions by French warplanes, which carried out four air strikes Saturday, destroying several armored vehicles from Kadhafi's forces.

The US missile attacks were carried out by two guided-missile destroyers, the USS Stout and the USS Barry, and three submarines in the Mediterranean near Libya, the USS Providence, the USS Scranton and USS Florida, the Navy said.

The Tomahawks have a range of 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) and carry a 450-kilogram (1,000-pound) warhead.

By Dan De Luce from AFP.

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