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International Coalition Strikes Continue Against Gaddafi's Libya

Scoop News: Gaddafi Regime Officials Cross Tunisia Border To Defect

THURSDAY UPDATE: Libya leader Muamar Gaddafi's regime has suffered a blow with his foreign minister having defected to the UK and another two officials believed to have fled across the Libyan border into Tunisia. (FULL COVERAGE below video...)

Gaddafi Regime Officials Cross Tunisia Border To Defect

Libya leader Muamar Gaddafi's regime has suffered a blow with his foreign minister having defected to the UK and another two officials believed to have fled across the Libyan border into Tunisia.

Image of the Gulfstream 200 jet used by the CIA to ferry Gaddafi Regime's foreign minister Mousa Kousa from Tunisia to the UK.

Scoop News: Intercepts of military communications suggest Mousa Kousa was ferried by the CIA onboard a Gulfstream 200 jet (registered tail number HB-JGL) from Tunisia's Djerba Zarzis International Airport to Farnborough Airport in the United Kingdom. The route heading was northward, crossing Malta airspace and onto the UK. Shortly after landing in the UK, Gaddafi's foreign minister stated he wished to defect and was no longer willing to represent the Gaddafi regime.

Soon after, Gaddafi's government issued a statement that Kousa was on a diplomatic mission tot he UK and had not defected.

Information coming in suggests Kousa had been in communication with the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and had been promised safe passage for him and his family should he defect.

Gaddafi's chief of Intel Umar Abu Zayd Durdah is believed to also have been in discussions with US officials.

Also, it is believed multiple defections have occurred, with no less than 32 Libya Government vehicles having crossed the border into Tunisia in the past 48 hours. Communications intercepts suggest among the defectors are top Gaddafi intelligence official Muhammad Abu Al Qassim Al Zawi and Abu Ati Al Ubaydi.

Earlier, Reuters reported - President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday. Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter.

EARLIER: Gordon Campbell: On Intervention In Libya

Was the intervention in Libya justified – and if so, does that mean the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was justified? The conditions laid down by the French for their participation in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libyan air space go some way to answering those questions.

Before they would join in any military action in Libya, the French were asking for (a) a clear UN resolution for the intervention(b) it had to be a UN operation, not one led by NATO (c) there would have to be some Arab involvement in the force, however token and (d) there would have to be a direct request and support for that intervention from a significant part of the civilian population. More>>


Friday News Wrap:

The Telegraph reports: The first Libya aircraft to be destroyed after it breached the no-fly zone was shot down by a French fighter as coalition attacks on Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces intensified on Thursday.

AFP reports: NATO members have struck a deal in principle to take over command of military operations in Libya within days from the coalition led by Britain, France and the United States: "NATO countries are in agreement to launch final planning, enabling it to take over the command from the coalition on Monday or Tuesday," said the diplomat, who asked not to be named.”

VOA reports: Coalition forces carried out strikes against pro-government targets in Libya on Thursday, as the African Union announced it is hosting talks aimed at trying to halt the fighting. Turkey's parliament Thursday authorized the country's government to participate in NATO military operations in Libya. The only Muslim member of the Western alliance, Turkey has agreed to support a no-fly zone as long as civilians are protected and NATO takes over command of the international coalition operation in Libya.

Al Jazeera reports: Turkey's Foreign minister says command of military operations in Libya will be transferred from US to NATO within a day or two.

Reuters reports: U.S. sees key NATO role on Libya, but questions remain: "Once we have this political structure ... we will naturally use the planning and intervention capacities of NATO," he said. A NATO official said the fact the 28-nation alliance had agreed on a detailed operations plan for a no-fly zone was significant. "However, that doesn't take into account the political reality of having to reach agreement on whether to execute it," the official said.

Scoop News: Coalition Of US, Canada, UK, France, Italy Strike Against Gaddafi's Libya


Scoop's Thursday Coverage:

Scoop's Selwyn Manning and 95bFM's Kat Mikela discuss the latest on the US-led coalition against Libya forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi. Also discussed in why NATO is stalling over taking the lead role to coordinate coalition forces, and why is the UN meeting on tactics used to implement Security Council resolution 1973 so important.

Has the US-led coalition used appropriate tactics to implement the UN Security Council resolution? And should the international community help those who oppose Gaddafi to overthrow his regime? (Do express your view in the chat box above.)

  • Thursday Afternoon Middle East/North Africa round-up:

    The tactics used by the US-led Coalition force will come under intense scrutiny in the early hours of tonight NZ time when a UN meeting is held to debate how Security Council resolution 1973 is being implemented.

    The situation around the Middle East is worsening.

    In Syria the up-rising has seen its government shooting protesters.

    Bahrain has called in soldiers from Saudi Arabia to assist the Sultan's security forces to dispose of its opposition.

    Israel's IDF air force fired on the Gaza Strip early yesterday injuring around 17 people including children. Israel says it is in retaliation to rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Hamas says it wasn't it, and other groups aligned to Hezbollar claim responsibility for the mortar attacks. It's believed both actions were motivated to disrupt peace talks from progressing.

    Tunisia is more stable now, but is teetering on chaos.

    Egypt, is semi stable and is preparing for an election late this year.

    Yemen is descending into chaos with its president threatening civil war against his opposition. Thi hotspot is something the US will be watching, it has long wished to control the rise of radical Islamist factions there.

    Algeria, when it comes to North Africa affairs it pays never to take one's eye of Algeria. It's secret service, the DRS, infects every level of contemporary society. And news reports suggest Gaddafi has been purchasing the services of Algerian mercenaries to bolster up his own security forces.

    Air traffic signals were intercepted early yesterday morning showing Russia's president Medvedev's aircraft descending to land in Tunisia and possibly Algeria. It is too early to know what this means, but we do know Russia's PM Vladimir Putin has been an outspoken critic of the tactics the coalition has used to implement the UN resolution.


    Thursday Morning Update: Coalition airstrikes are continuing targeting facilities such as Muammar Gaddafi's Bab Azizia compound in Tripoli. Meanwhile Gaddafi loyalist forces have positioned tanks at eastern and western entrances to Ajdabiya.

    The Guardian reports - A flotilla of warships has begun patrolling the Mediterranean under Nato command to block attempts by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to replenish his combat forces with arms and mercenaries.

    Reuters reports - The United States still plans to transfer control of the military mission in Libya to an allied coalition in days with NATO playing a key role, a senior White House official said on Wednesday.

    Al Jazeera reports - NATO nations fail to reach agreement on Libya. A third day of talks ends without consensus over role for military alliance in imposing no-fly zone operation over Libya.

    The Telegraph reports - The US President "absolutely" ruled out a land invasion to oust Col Muammar Gaddafi and insisted that America would stand down from its leading military role within days. But uncertainty over who would take over military command deepened as France and Britain remained divided over how central Nato's role would be in the international coalition.


    Wednesday Midday Update: Washington - President Obama's national security adviser says actions taken by an international coalition against the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi are necessary to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

    National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told reporters that the aim is to stop troops loyal to Qadhafi from any further attacks on civilians across Libya. Donilon is traveling with the president, who is on a five-day, three-nation trip to Latin America. Click here for more info.

    New York - United Nations agencies prepared today to rush aid into eastern Libya as rebels told a senior UN envoy on the ground there that cities and towns were under siege and civilians being targeted by the tanks and heavy weaponry of Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s forces. Click here for more info.

    Wednesday News Wrap:

    The Guardian reports: US forces sent into Libya to rescue two downed American airmen botched the mission by shooting and wounding friendly villagers who had come to help, witnesses have said. Click here for more info.

    Al Jazeera reports: Libyan anti-aircraft fire have opened up over the capital, Tripoli, amid the sound of explosions, witnesses have said. Al Jazeera's correspondent in the capital said anti-aircraft crews started firing after nightfall on Tuesday. "We've been hearing big noises. We've heard some explosions in the last 10 minutes," Anita McNaught said.

    "We haven't seen any smoke on the horizon. People are firing guns in defiance, we're in the loyalist heartland here where people are utterly defiant of the international effort to force Gaddafi to surrender, as they would see it. Click here for more info.

    Tuesday Midday Update: New video clips report the latest on operation Odyssey Dawn with attacks continuing against Gaddafi Government held areas. Meanwhile Russia is concerned that the UN resolution 1973 agreement is wrong and that the coalition forces have no right to interfere in Libya's affairs.

    Scoop News: - Foreign Secretary discussed the UN Security Council resolution and the situation in Libya on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on 21 March.

    Explaining the UN resolution the Foreign Secretary said it "authorises all necessary measures to be taken to protect the civilian and the populated areas of Libya".

    "Let’s not forget what we’ve achieved in the last few days. Qadhafi, without this resolution, without the action we’ve taken, was setting about attacking Benghazi with, he said, no pity or mercy, to search every household. There would have been a humanitarian disaster as people fled from that, and that at least for now has been averted. And so something very important has been achieved, which is the protection of the civilian population by the action we’ve taken so far." Click here for the full statement on Scoop.

    Sleeper Cells Appear: Amnesty International crisis researcher, Donatella Rovera, reports from Libya that the situation has significantly deteriorated in Benghazi and elsewhere in eastern Libya in the past few days. Since Sunday, while Colonel al-Gaddafi’s spokespeople reiterate that their forces are observing a ceasefire, armed al-Gaddafi loyalists – who people identify as members of the lijan thawriya (Revolutionary Committees), groups of loyalists who acted as informers and intelligence gatherers, among other tasks, and were omnipresent in towns and villages all over Libya – have sprung into action in the city, carrying out targeted and indiscriminate armed attacks. Article courtesy of Amnesty International, on Scoop.


    Tuesday Morning Update: Wrap of news reports.

    The Guardian writes: The planes were barely out of earshot when the charge of the ad hoc motorised cavalry began. The young fighters, the "shabab" as they proudly proclaim themselves, piled on to scores of pick up trucks with mounted machine guns and squeezed in to saloon cars with their Kalashnikovs hanging out of the windows. Some had no more than old hunting rifles. One man was waving a bayonet as his only weapon.

    The Telegraph reports: The rebels raced each other along the Tripoli road making pell-mell for the disputed town of Ajdabiya. They charged ahead, convinced war planes were in the air again. Buoyed by the sight of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's tanks lying smashed and charred along the route, the disparate column of pickups and saloon cars had chased government troops almost 90 miles out of the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.

    Reuters reports: Little sign at Libya front of rebel-West contact. Yet communication even between rebel units fighting at fairly close range can seem limited. Many rebels had relied on mobile phones to communicate, but in recent days the mobile network has become patchy at best or has simply shut down.

    Washington Post writes: Russian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin on Monday condemned the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized military intervention in Libya, calling it “defective and flawed” and saying it “resembles medieval calls for crusades.” AFP reports: A top US commander said Monday US forces would not offer military support for a ground offensive by Libyan opposition forces and that it was possible Moamer Kadhafi would survive a coalition air campaign with his power intact. Saying it would not be "ideal" for Kadhafi to remain in power, General Carter Ham said he could "envision that as a possible situation at least for the current (mission) that I have."

    CNN reports: As coalition forces continue to attack Libya and impose a no-fly zone, Moammar Gadhafi's regime is under the greatest pressure it has faced in its 42-year reign. But questions are being asked as to what will emerge from the bombardment. Will Gadhafi survive and if so what will his next move be?


    Monday MARCH 21: One of Gaddafi's sons, Khamis Gaddafi is lelieved to have died as a result of burns after a suicide attack on his residence. Khamis Gaddafi was in charge of a battalion. He was critical in a burns unit and died this morning (NZ Time). The battalion's barracks have also been hit by coalition missiles. Meanwhile, Libya Youth Movement tweets: "Large explosions heard in Tripoli, also large plumes of smoke seen rising from Gaddafi's Bab Azizia compound."

    Intercepted coalition military communications suggest US is broadcasting PsyOps to Libya transmitting to its defence-coms channels. Also, British special forces have been deployed to Malta onboard Dash 8 aircraft.

    Audio of UN Air Force psy-ops transmission to Libya ship.

    One of the big questions is: should Gaddafi's regime fall, who or what will take its place?

    US-based Startegic Forecasting (Stratfor) suggests some former members of Gaddafi's government who have defected to the rebel opposition camp are of most interest to western governments.

    Stratfor writes: "One of the biggest problems Western governments have faced throughout the Libyan crisis has been in identifying who exactly the “eastern rebels” are. Until the uprising began in February, there was thought to be no legitimate opposition to speak of in the country, and thus no contacts between the United States, the United Kingdom, France or others.

    "Many of those who now speak for the rebel movement headquartered in Benghazi. There have been several defections, however, from the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to the eastern rebel leadership, and it is men like these with whom the West is now trying to engage as the possible next generation of leadership in Libya, should its unstated goal of regime change come to fruition," Stratfor writes. Click here to visit Stratfor's website.

    Also, recommended read:

    Sunday MARCH 20: A US-led coalition has launched cruise missile and airstrikes against Gaddafi controlled air defences in what is called Operation "Odyssey Dawn". The coalition includes forces from the US, UK, France, Canada, Italy, Greece, Qatar, UAE.

    The attacks began with cruise missile attacks from US Naval ships located off the coast of Libya. (See map graphic on right showing Libyan airports and installations in blue and Coalition waypoints in red)

    Military communications suggest the air strikes are centrally controlled where coalition member countries' air forces are deployed in waves. After the initial tomahawk missile attacks were deployed from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean, France's air force struck at Libya defence facilities and airports. The UK's RAF was then deployed intensifying the barrage before leaving the Mediterranean theatre while the US Air Force positioned into a strike formation. Spain, Italy, and Canada strike forces also took part in the night attacks.

    The operation first targeted Gaddafi-held defences in Tripoli and Misrata. Reuters reports 25 coalition ships, including three US submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles have been in the Mediterranean Sea waiting for the order to attack.

    Libyan Youth Movement says mass defections are occurring as soldiers once loyal to Gaddafi swap sides joining the opposition forces.

    Reuters reports the United States' huge military power dominated the initial phase of the strike and Army General Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, was leading the entire coalition. Pentagon officials said, however, their plan is take a smaller role over time in the operation, which was named Odyssey Dawn.

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is deeply concerned about the intensification in recent days of the fighting in and around densely populated centres in Libya, with the consequent risk to civilian lives.

    As airstrikes in Libya by international forces begin, the ICRC calls upon all parties – the international forces, the Libyan government forces, and the armed opposition – to abide strictly by the rules and principles of international humanitarian law.

    Strafor's George Friedman writes: "The long-term goal, unspoken but well understood, is regime change — displacing the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and replacing it with a new regime built around the rebels.

    "The mission is clearer than the strategy, and that strategy can’t be figured out from the first moves. The strategy might be the imposition of a no-fly zone, the imposition of a no-fly zone and attacks against Libya’s command-and-control centers, or these two plus direct ground attacks on Gadhafi’s forces. These could also be combined with an invasion and occupation of Libya," George Friedman wrote. Click here for more

    Earlier, pro-Gaddafi Forces defied the UN Security Council order for an immediate ceasefire. Throughout Saturday (NZ time) Gaddafi forces attacked the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in direct defiance to warnings from the United States president Barack Obama. Muammar Gaddafi loyalists attacked both civilian and opposition areas of Benghazi with artillery, tanks and airstrikes.

    Libyan Youth Movement had tweeted: "Tanks roll down the street of Benghazi with the independence flag as Benghazi celebrates her victory against Gaddafi once again." But opposition forces pushed the advance back as the international coalition began its offensive.

    Scoop Washington correspondent Connie Lawn reports

    MARCH 19: A BBC reporter in the city confirmed Pro-Gaddafi tanks inside Libya's rebel stronghold of Benghazi. And the Libyan Youth Movement tweeted from Benghazi: "The UN resolution specifically mentioned protection of Benghazi if attacked. Well it was and is being attacked..."

    Al-Jazeera reports one of its correspondents as saying a street in central Benghazi has been targeted by bombers. It also reports that bombing of Benghazi has hit a hotel where journalists are staying.

    A BBC reporter in Benghazi says it appears the ceasefire is being ignored by pro-Gaddafi forces.

    The following text was read out on Al Arabiya television by Gaddafi's spokesman:

    The first letter to brother leader to Barack Obama:

      "To our son, his excellency, Mr Baracka Hussein Obama. I have said to you before, that even if Libya and the United States of America enter into a war, god forbid, you will always remain a son. Your picture will not be changed. I want you to remain in the same image. I have all the people of Libya with me, and I'm prepared to die and we have all the men, children and women with me. Nothing more. Al Qaeda is an armed organisation, passing through Algeria, Mauritania and Mali. What would you do if you found them controlling American cities with the power of weapons? What would you do, so I can follow your example."

      Gaddafi's Letter to Ban Ki Moon, Sarkozy and Cameron:

      "Libya is not yours, Libya is for the Libyans. The security council, their resolution is void because it is not according to the charter to interfere with the internal affairs of the country. … You have no right. You will regret if you get involved in this, our country. We can never shoot a single bullet on our people, it is Al Qaeda organisation."

    Earlier Saturday (NZ Time) US president Barack Obama said the international community would show 'No Mercy' unless Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi complied fully with the UN resolution ordering a complete ceasefire. The Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa had announced the regime had ordered an immediate and unilateral ceasefire.

    The move had stalled a United Nations Security Council backed move that would have seen US, UK, France and other states use military attacks against Libyan forces and to enforce a “No Fly Zone” designed to protect civilians and people opposing the Gaddafi Libyan Government.

    But US President Barack Obama said if Gaddafi did not comply there would be "no mercy" and the US, UK and France this morning issued a joint statement saying Gaddafi must implement the ceasefire immediately. The statement reads:

      "Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull back his troops from Ajdabiyah, Misrata, and Zawiyah, and re-establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya. These terms are not negotiable. If Gaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and this resolution will be enforced through military action."

    The White House also issued a short statement. It read:

      Readout of President Obama’s Calls with Prime Minister Cameron and President Sarkozy

      Following the successful adoption today of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya, President Obama called Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. The leaders agreed that Libya must immediately comply with all terms of the resolution and that violence against the civilian population of Libya must cease. The leaders agreed to coordinate closely on next steps, and to continue working with Arab and other international partners to ensure the enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions on Libya.

    MARCH 18 On Friday, the Security Council's 15 member nations put the 'No Fly Zone” proposal to the vote: ten were in favour with no votes against. Five countries abstained. They were: Brazil, Russia, China, Germany, India.

    Prior to the Iraq invasion the Security Council had endorsed a “No Fly Zone” over Iraq's northern and southern territories. A similar plan is being established to control Libya airspace.

    Thursday (New York Time) Resolution 1973 was passed. It authorises 'all necessary measures' and includes airstrikes and the use of heavy artillery, permitting the use of ground forces. It also includes a beefed up arms embargo and additional economic sanctions, but excludes an occupation force.

    Some Arab and African states as well as the U.S., France and Britain pushed for the measure.

    On Thursday, UK Ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant said: "Resolution 1973 demands that Colonel Qhadafi implement an immediate ceasefire. It imposes a no-fly zone to prevent the Qhadafi regime using air power against the Libyan people. It authorizes Member States to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack. It rules out a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory. It imposes a range of additional measures including significant action to tighten enforcement of the arms embargo and to deny the regime access to funds."

    The Security Council issued the following statement: "... today effectively authorized the use of force in Libya to protect civilians from attack, specifically in the eastern city of Benghazi, which Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi has reportedly said he will storm tonight to end a revolt against his regime.

    "Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides for the use of force if needed, the Council adopted a resolution by 10 votes to zero, with five abstentions, including those of veto-wielding China and Russia, authorizing Member States “to take all necessary measures… to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force,” the Security Council stated.

    Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has addressed people in Benghazi stating that opposition to his rule includes "drug addicts" who were primed to revolt against his rule. He said imperial forces are turning Libya, a wealthy nation, into one as poor as Somalia. He urged those who oppose him to put down their weapons and to be assured that an amnesty will be issued if they do so. Others he said should stay at home. But that his security forces will search every home and if weapons are found those people will be considered an enemy.

    But the UN is demanding an "immediate ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against and abuse of civilians". It is condemning the “gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and summary executions.”

    The UN Security Council noted that the attacks currently taking place may amount to crimes against humanity: International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has already opened an investigation into Mr. Qadhafi, some of his sons and members of his inner circle for such crimes in repressing peaceful protesters. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said Mr. Qadhafi lost his legitimacy when he declared war on his people.

    France has been arguing for a No Fly Zone for the past ten days.

    Earlier, a spokesperson for France's Foreign Affairs Ministry observed that the situation in Libya was deteriorating and noted that France had been urging other members of the UN Security Council to mobilise "the international community in order to enable it to take action... including "concrete and operational measures which will allow us to protect, as swiftly as possible, the civilian populations who are currently at risk.", the Spokesperson said.

    Rationale underlying the Security Council resolution was that the international community cannot stand by while Gaddafi's forces swept through Libya killing those who opposed his rule. Gaddafi's sweep of dissidents has been gaining momentum throughout this week.

    The United Nations issued a statement an hour after the Security Council passed the resolution. It expressed "grave concern at the deteriorating situation, the escalation of violence, and the heavy civilian casualties, the Council established a no-fly zone, banning all flights – except those for humanitarian purposes – in Libyan airspace in order to help protect civilians. It specifically calls on Arab League states to cooperate with other Member States in taking the necessary measures".

    "The Arab League last weekend requested the Council to impose a no-fly zone after Mr. Qadhafi was reported to have used warplanes, warships, tanks and artillery to seize back cities taken over in what started out a month ago as mass protests by peaceful civilians seeking an end to his 41-year rule," the UN stated.

    It added: "The resolution further strengthens an arms embargo that the Council imposed last month when it unanimously approved sanctions against the Libyan authorities, freezing the assets of its leaders and referring the ongoing violent repression of civilian demonstrators to the International Criminal Court (ICC)," the UN stated.

    More information to come...

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