HOME / MIDDLE-EAST / US MOVES FORCES CLOSER TO LIBYA AS QADDAFI ESCALATES CRACKDOWN
US moves forces closer to Libya as Qaddafi escalates crackdown
Libyans opposed to Muammar Qaddafi load bullets for a heavy machine gun at a military base in Benghazi on Monday in preparation for any attack from the ruler's loyalists. (AP)
1 of 3
By MAGGIE MICHAEL | AP
Published: Mar 1, 2011 01:23 Updated: Mar 1, 2011 04:10
TRIPOLI, Libya: International pressure on Muammar Qaddafi to end his crackdown on opponents escalated Monday as his loyalists closed in on rebel-held cities nearest the capital. The US moved naval and air forces closer to Libya and said all options were open, including the use of warplanes to patrol the North African nation’s skies and protect citizens threatened by their leader.
France said it would fly aid to the opposition-controlled eastern half of the country. The European Union imposed an arms embargo and other sanctions, following the lead of the US and the UN The EU was also considering the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya. And the US and Europe were freezing billions in Libya’s foreign assets.
“Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to govern, and it is time for him to go without further violence or delay,” US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. “No option is off the table. That of course includes a no-fly zone,” she added. British Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers: “We do not in any way rule out the use of military assets” to deal with Qaddafi’s regime.
Qaddafi, who in the past two weeks has launched the most brutal crackdown of any Arab regime facing a wave of popular uprisings, laughed off a question from ABC News about whether he would step down as the Obama administration demands.
“My people love me. They would die for me,” he said. ABC reported that Qaddafi invited the UN or any other organization to Libya on a fact-finding mission.
The turmoil in the oil-rich nation roiled markets for another day. Libya’s oil chief said production had been cut by around 50 percent, denting supplies that go primarily to Europe.
The uprising that began Feb. 15 has posed most serious challenge to Qaddafi in his more than four decades in power. His bloody crackdown has left hundreds, and perhaps thousands, dead. But clashes appear to have eased considerably in the past few days after planeloads of foreign journalists arrived in the capital at the government’s invitation.
The two sides are entrenched, and the direction the uprising takes next could depend on which can hold out longest. Qaddafi is dug in in Tripoli and nearby cities, backed by his elite security forces and militiamen who are generally better armed than the military. His opponents, holding the east and much of the country’s oil infrastructure, also control pockets in western Libya near Tripoli. They are backed by mutinous army units, but those forces appear to have limited supplies of ammunition and weapons.
Qaddafi opponents have moved to consolidate their hold in the east, centered on Benghazi — Libya’s second- largest city, where the uprising began. Politicians there on Sunday set up their first leadership council to manage day-to-day affairs, taking a step toward forming what could be an alternative to Qaddafi’s regime.
The opposition is backed by numerous units of the military in the east that joined the uprising, and they hold several bases and Benghazi’s airport. But so far, the units do not appear to have melded into a unified fighting force.
Qaddafi long kept the military weak, fearing a challenge to his rule, so many units are plagued by shortages of supplies and ammunition.
On Monday, pro-Qaddafi forces retook control of the western border crossings with Tunisia that had fallen under opposition control and they bombed an ammunition depot in the rebel-held east, residents in the area said. The Libyan Defense Ministry denied the bombing.
Regime forces also moved to tighten their ring around two opposition-controlled cities closest to the capital Tripoli — Zawiya and Misrata — where the two sides are locked in standoffs.
An Associated Press reporter saw a large, pro-Qaddafi force massed on the western edge of Zawiya, some 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, with about a dozen armored vehicles along with tanks and jeeps mounted with anti-aircraft guns. An officer said they were from the elite Khamis Brigade, named after one of Qaddafi’s sons who commands it. US diplomats have said the brigade is the best-equipped force in Libya.
Residents inside the city said they were anticipating a possible attack.
“Our people are waiting for them to come and, God willing, we will defeat them,” one resident who only wanted to be quoted by his first name, Alaa, told AP in Cairo by telephone.
In Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tripoli, pro-Qaddafi troops who control part of an air base on the outskirts tried to advance Monday. But they were repulsed by opposition forces, who included residents with automatic weapons and defected army units allied with them, one of the opposition fighters said.
No casualties were reported and the fighter claimed that his side had captured eight soldiers, including a senior officer.
The opposition controls most of the air base, and the fighter said dozens of anti-Qaddafi gunmen have arrived from farther east in recent days as reinforcements.
Several residents of the eastern city of Ajdabiya said Qaddafi’s air force also bombed an ammunition depot nearby held by rebels. One resident, 17-year-old Abdel-Bari Zwei, reported intermittent explosions and a fire, and another, Faraj Al-Maghrabi, said the facility was partially damaged.
The site contains bombs, missiles and ammunition — key for the undersupplied opposition military forces.
State TV carried a statement by Libya’s Defense Ministry denying any attempt to bomb the depot. Ajdabiya is about 450 miles (750 kilometers) east of Tripoli along the Mediterranean coast.
Qaddafi supporters said they were in control of the city of Sabratha, west of Tripoli, which has seemed to go back and forth between the two camps in the past week. Several residents told the AP that protesters set fire to a police station, but then were dispersed. Anti-Qaddafi graffiti — “Down with the enemy of freedom” and “Libya is free, Qaddafi must leave” — were scrawled on some walls, but residents were painting them over.
There were signs of economic distress in the country, with long lines forming for bread and gasoline.
Global efforts to halt Qaddafi’s crackdown escalated Monday.
In Washington, the Pentagon said it was moving some naval and air forces closer to Libya in case they are needed. The US has a regular military presence in the Mediterranean and farther to the south has two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf area.
The US Treasury Department said that at least $30 billion in Libyan assets have been frozen since President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Libya last week.
France promised to send two planes with humanitarian aid the eastern opposition stronghold city of Benghazi, hoping to give it the momentum to oust Qaddafi. The aid to included medicine and doctors, would be the first direct Western help for the uprising that has taken control of the entire eastern half of Libya. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said it was the start of a “massive operation of humanitarian support” for the east and that Paris was studying “all solutions” — including military options.
The EU slapped its own arms embargo, visa ban and other sanctions on Qaddafi’s regime, following sanctions imposed by the US and the UN in the past week. And Europe was also considering the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent any air attacks by the regime on rebellious citizens.
Clinton met in Geneva with foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany and Italy to press for tough sanctions on the Libyan government.
I am fearful for interfering by Western countries in Libya, who want to take control over oil and make this country like another Iraq or Afghanistan. May Allah save this Muslim country from this treacherous enemies like West and Israel, whose intentions I see do not look good. West always use some kind of excuse to get in for humanitarian assistance but I doubt their evil intention. I know, Gaddafy is a bad guy but these western enemies are far worst than him. They feel that Gaddafy is commiting atrocities but what about Israel, who has been doing far worst for last 60 years! Where is U.N. and America, when matter comes to Palestinian people.
MUSLIM SISTER Mar 1, 2011 11:49 Report abuse
Dear Lybans may Allah make you brave and strong aganist your enemy but be very careful of the Western backers as they only look after THEIR INTERESTS. May Allah bless all the Arabs as they shake the shacklesof their fear. Let there be only the fear of Allah. May Allah bless all the people with peace, dignity and justice.
CHRIS GERSCHLER Mar 1, 2011 11:50 Report abuse
Please help these citizens, these are Fathers, Mothers, Children and Grandparents trying to make a better life for themselves. They are being treated as gold fish in a barrel, shot and killed for trying to make thier voices heard. I would not be able to go to work and produce for my place of employment if I knew that my family could be killed by the government with some state sponcered mercianorys. Please pray for these people and step up to the plate to take care of thier well being!
MOINUDDIN KHAWAJA Mar 1, 2011 11:50 Report abuse
This is not acceptable and i forcasted my comments two weeks ago that United state and NATO forces may come and grab Libya to improve their economy.This is golden chance for them to sit here and control egypt and Africa and sudan. After Iraq now Libya. Please oppose this and immidiately Egypt should move his army to get rid of Mr Qaddafi as soon as posible.
MUSSOKHATTAK Mar 1, 2011 12:02 Report abuse
No wonder the US are the most hated nation in the world !!! Muddling in every one's affair. Dogs should tied properly
MUSA Mar 1, 2011 12:10 Report abuse
America is after the Libyan oil and it will create another Iraq.
REHAAN Mar 1, 2011 12:19 Report abuse
do you guys think that US is here to protect the citizens, my foot US. for the sake of oil (pretty similar case with Iraq) US is there, they will create a havoc then loot the oil from libiya, thats why qaddafi's lost control on oil production & storage stuff since few weeks. US get a life, we don't need you, it wil be better if you keep your dirty thoughts with you, don't make libiyans life misreable now.
MERLIN Mar 1, 2011 12:22 Report abuse
Amazing - it's started already, even before there is US involvement. The hatred and vitriol.
Just yesterday, the comments were full of people asking for the World to help the Libyans. As soon as the West, particularly the US, even positions themselves to help, then the criticism starts. If you in the Arab / Muslim world don't want Western involvement, great, then get off your fat, spineless a**es, and show us Westerners how it's done!
Aaah! The sound of deafening silence!
The Libyans really can, only, rely on God's help, if the West stays clear!
JAY Mar 1, 2011 12:22 Report abuse
Dont worry the Saviors (US, EU and Jesus) are coming to Libiya. We'll liberate you like we've done for Iraqis and Afghanis. It's not about OIL; we just love to help!
ROB Mar 1, 2011 16:14 Report abuse
Or maybe like when The U.S. went in and stopped the genocide in Bosnia, even though there was no oil or no strategic value to the country itself. Quick, how many Middle Eastern countries can you name that either (A) supported the U.S. or (B) commended the U.S. for their actions and their sacrifice? Just what I thought.
H.A. AZIZ Mar 1, 2011 16:15 Report abuse
JAY >>> You must be J O K I N G
MUHAMMAD SALEEM Mar 2, 2011 01:49 Report abuse
This piece of news is not surprising, rather it was expected. Once again USA and EU are moving in fast to âœhelpâ another Muslim nation. What a shame for OIC in general and Arab League in particular. OIC (or at least Arab League) should have convened an emergency meeting to address and help the Libyan issue. Without any clear policies and procedures to deal such situations in the Muslim countries, these organizations have invited the whole world to laugh on them. Still there is time for the OIC to show its leadership because similar events may unfold in some other Muslim country in the coming days. Last, but not least, Amer Mossa, the Arab League sectary general, should consolidate the Arab League rather than be selfish in running for the presidency.
RC Mar 2, 2011 03:12 Report abuse
We Americans are not trying to or interested in capturing Libya for our own interests. America and the European countries will, however, likely end up spending millions of dollars and sacrificing their own troops to protect Libyans as they attempt to break away from Qaddafi. If muslim countries and people are so concerned about Libya, then please step up to the challenge of defending the people of Libya. Cooperation and support are what is needed to fight the wrongs of the world, wherever they exist. I am not suggesting that America or Americans are perfect. We certainly are not. But we are also, as a nation and majority, NOT interested in world conquest or in waging war. Most Americans want peace, stability, equality and a better world. If there are opportunities to do business together, we are glad to do so. If there are situations of disaster, America is often the first country to help and contributes heavily to humanitarian relief, regardless of religious beliefs. We're not so bad, so please give us a chance. We have one world, so let's learn to live together in peace.
DR.WALEED KHALID Mar 2, 2011 03:16 Report abuse
Where were these These Americans and others when innocent unarmed protesters were gunned down by the Indian troops for asking UN resolutions on Kashmir to be implemented.Is the blood of Kashmiris cheap than the Libiyans? US and its puppets are poking their nose in Libya by backing the thugs against Qaddafi.Why Libyans have forgotten Iraq, Palestine. These so called protesters should tell uncle sam that lay off then Muslims can support them.
SAYED Mar 2, 2011 03:21 Report abuse
Every nation is talking about libya, but only US and EU nations are moving forward. What about muslim nations, arent they strong enough.to oust gaddafi..it is time for countries like Egypt to take the lead and send armed forces, many other middle eastern countries will join the mission to liberate libya
SAJID SHAIKH Mar 2, 2011 03:24 Report abuse
If Qaddafi is bad how good is the U.S. President and the U.N. Security General that give no consideration to the daily killings in Afghanistan and the drone killings in Pakistan. Are those dying in these areas not human-beings? I am happy that finally BBC and CNN got a guy who could confuse them with lies, lies and lies! U.S. went to Iraq to destroy the so called weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons). Did they find any chemicals weapon till now? What is Iraq and Afghanistan today after they the saviours of the world (U.S. U.N. and U.K) went there? Blaming Qaddafi won't be sufficient but asking ourselves as to why the protesters came out in the street in a country where the law says no protests to be made whether peaceful or otherwise (same is the situation with so many countries in the middle east, by the Grace of God). You can't give bedouins the democracy card to play when they won't understand what it means! Even the democratic U.S. can't keep its public happy as the employment fact remains 10% jobless people. U.S. needs to manage its own people and resources and keep away from other country.
BREEZE Mar 2, 2011 03:27 Report abuse
US moves forces closer to Libya as Qaddafi escalates crackdown: Ban Ki Moon is not a right Secretary General. His appointment was approved by United States and his duties and responsibilities are to be reported to the US. Otherwise he will be terminated.
NISHTHAR IDROOS Mar 2, 2011 03:28 Report abuse
JAY- Allah the God of jesus,Moses and Muhammad (Peace be upon all of them ) is with the muslims,no thanks. He will save the Muslims with whoever He deems fit.
NF Mar 2, 2011 10:04 Report abuse
Jay your words US,EU is understandable. but including Jesus, was in my opinion, not necessary. However you dont have to accept my words, your own wisdom some day, will show you, how wrong you were. Thank you.
MOHAMMED Mar 2, 2011 10:25 Report abuse
In our beloved country, Saudi Arabia most of the public citizens and expats are ok, happy, proud, peaceful, secure, properous under current leadership. In our country womens are more secure, happy and peaceful than any where in the world, particulary in western countries, where crime against women is happening every 48 seconds. All the happenings in Arab country is a conspiracy by zionist and west to destroy and rule the richness of these countries. People should think clearly twice before getting trapped with face book, twitter, google etc, which is nothing but a device to influence the public to revolt against their elders, their culture, their religion and their leaders. I strongly suggest saudi authorities to bank or block facebook, google, twitter etc, which brings more harm to the public than bringing business or useful value. We have lived without these things for centuries and why not we through these addictions, which is introduced just few years ago. Dear brothers and sisters of arab and world community, think twice and dont just peered by western media which is 100% lies
GUEST 1 NL Mar 2, 2011 10:50 Report abuse
Pff Well Arabs, what are YOU waiting for, go then and help the people in Libiya instead of spitting poison at the West and for that the USA.. I't's sooo easy .... But you cannot, because you are too devided and don't trust anyone accept for yourself sitting behind your pc. Lazy and ignorned and mayby even frustrated about it, which is good because that means you know youself and that's a start.
RON Mar 2, 2011 11:31 Report abuse
Hey Merlin, i posted a very similar note on the same topic the other day. In the editorial section where the editor was asking for western help. What i said there was that the minute any western nation goes to help. the Saudis will jump up and down screaming about how the west is killing their brothers. Its a case of dammed if you do and dammed if you dont. And also like you i enjoy reading Nishthar's somewhat disjointed and one eyed view of humanity
KGHOTI Mar 2, 2011 11:56 Report abuse
I understand. Some people want the world including the US to involve themselves to defend the Libyans who are being murdered by their dictator and others are quite skeptical about motives and prefer that the world, and the US in particular not get involved. No society has only one point of view, just as no country has only one motivation.
What I can tell you is that the people on the street in the US see situations like the one in Libya and we become anguished feeling that something must be done. We feel guilty when we don't intervene as we see ourselves as a country of people who have freed ourselves from oppression.
Yes, we dislike when prices go up due to the cost of oil, but we understand it much more in situations like this than when they flex for no apparent reason and we don't see war as a means for acquiring oil.
In the end, I believe we come to the conclusion that, while we would like to have the friendship and agreement with all people, it is impossible because of such diverse points of view. As a result we must do what seems to be the best course of action over all and
MERLIN Mar 2, 2011 18:45 Report abuse
I think you will like this one Ron.
The Libyan freedom fighters who are now starting to suffer serious setbacks, as fighters loyal to the regime appear to be taking ground back from the rebels. What fate waits for the poor people who fought for freedom and now find themselves in the custody of the regime's torturers? These poor people are going to be made a hideous example of, in an effort to deter others.
While the West is hesitant to help, for fear of Arab / Muslim condemnation as infidel occupiers, the Arab / Muslim world sits back and does nothing?
The Libyan freedom fighters should be so happy that their brothers have prevented Western assistance, by proxy. Also, if they were able to read these comments I'm sure that they wish to send their heartfelt thanks to the brothers here who keep banging on about Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir etc. rather than offering them any practical support.