Saturday, June 4, 2011

French, British copters enter Libya war

A British Apache helicopter (file photo)

Source: Press TV

NATO attack helicopters have carried out their first strikes in crisis-hit Libya to intensify the military campaign against Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

"Attack helicopters under NATO command were used for the first time on 4 June 2011 in military operations over Libya as part of Operation Unified Protector," the Western military alliance said in a statement on Saturday, AFP reported.

Two Apache choppers destroyed two military installations, a radar site and an armored vehicle near a checkpoint near the Libyan city of Brega, said the captain of the HMS Ocean, a British assault ship in the Mediterranean where the aircraft were launched.

Gazelle and Tiger helicopters also took part in the same operation, Frence's military chiefs said.

A spokesman for the French military chiefs, Thierry Brukhard, said the copters destroyed around 20 targets.

Four British Apache and 12 French Tiger and Gazelle choppers have been deployed to Libya to be used under NATO command.

NATO's Commander of Libya mission Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard said the helicopters would be used “whenever and wherever needed.”

The helicopters provide more precision than the fighter jets in attacking small targets and Gaddafi loyalists who try to hide in crowded areas, NATO said.

However, the helicopters operate at low altitudes and face the risk of being targeted by Gaddafi forces. Reports say Gaddafi still has access to thousands of surface-to-air missiles.

NATO warplanes have recently carried out numerous strikes on command-and-control structures in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The military alliance has extended its mission in Libya until the end of September.

The UN Resolution 1973 in March mandated NATO to enforce a no-fly zone to protect civilians from attacks by Gaddafi forces until the end of June.

According to Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, more than 700 civilians have so far been killed in NATO strikes on Libya.

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