23 Mar 2011

Gaddafi vows victory against western forces

10:30 pm on 23 March 2011

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has told his followers he will win the battle against international forces which are carrying out air strikes to enforce a UN resolution.

In a brief speech from his compound in Tripoli and broadcast on state television, Colonel Gaddafi said the world is condemning the actions of the coalition.

Colonel Gaddafi was surrounded by supporters said Libya was ready for battle and foreign forces leading an assault against his government will lose and end up in the dustbin of history.

There are unconfirmed reports that one his sons, Khamis Gaddafi, has been killed, possibly by a Libyan pilot who deliberately crashed his plane.

The international forces began bombarding Libya on Saturday to enforce a United Nations Security Council resolution last week that set up a no-fly zone over the country and authorised the use of "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

Within the NATO military alliance, there have been fractious talks over which country should lead the military campaign once the US hands it over in a few days.

The BBC reports that US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke by telephone on Tuesday after talks in Brussels had failed to secure an agreement on how to proceed on a new command structure.

Meanwhile, NATO has also decided to enforce an arms embargo against Libya. Secretary-General Anders Rasmussen says ships and aircraft are being assembled in the central Mediterranean area to carry out the task.

Libyan officials say Western air strikes hit a naval facility in the east of the capital, Tripoli. A Reuters correspondent taken to the facility by Libyan officials saw four Soviet-made missile carrier trucks which were destroyed.

Attacks on rebels continue

Colonel Gaddafi's forces have attacked two rebel-held cities despite continuing Western bombing and missile strikes to enforce a UN resolution to protect civilians.

In the latest fighting on Tuesday, government tanks shelled the rebel-held western town of Misrata, which has been under siege for weeks. Residents said four children and an adult were killed when their car was hit, adding to an earlier death toll of 40.

Colonel Gaddafi's forces were also trying to seize the western rebel-held town of Zintan near the Tunisian border in an attack using heavy weapons, and one resident said 10 people were killed on Tuesday.

Rebels in the east Libya were stuck just outside Ajdabiyah on Tuesday, making no further advance on the strategic town.

US warplane crashes

A US fighter jet crashed in Libya, in an apparent mechanical failure and its two crew members were rescued.

The US military said here was no indication the F-15E had been brought down by hostile fire.

The aircraft was based in England and was flying out of Aviano Air Base in Italy when it experienced an equipment malfunction over northeast Libya, the military said.

Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper said Libyan rebels rescued a pilot after he ejected from the warplane.

Thousands displaced, medicines in short supply

UN aid agencies say thousands of Libyans have fled their homes and are now displaced inside the country.

Most of Libya remains off limits to aid workers, and most foreign medical staff have fled the country, leaving just a few doctors and nurses to run intensive care units, aid agencies say.

The World Health Organisation says there is an acute shortage of essential medicines, including anaesthestics, and a huge shortage of drugs to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes.

The World Food Programme says it has heard that prices of wheat and bread have more than doubled and rice is up by almost as much.