Sunday, April 10, 2011

NATO Strikes 25 Libyan Tanks Near Ajdabiya, Misrata: General

NATO warplanes destroyed 11 regime tanks on the road to the eastern Libyan town of Ajdabiya and another 14 tanks near Misrata in the west on April 10, the operation's commander said.

"The situation in Ajdabiya, and Misratah in particular, is desperate for those Libyans who are being brutally shelled by the (Moammar Gadhafi) regime," said Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, the NATO operation's commander.

"To help protect these civilians we continue to strike these forces hard, with 11 tanks destroyed today as they approached Ajdabiya, and 14 tanks destroyed earlier this morning in the outskirts of Misrata," he said.

A NATO official told AFP earlier that the air strikes would continue throughout the day and evening.

"Clearly the situation in Ajdabiya is desperate and Gadhafi forces are attacking the town with heavy weapons," the official said.

NATO has also been hitting ammunition bunkers and lines of communication to cut off Gadhafi forces from their supplies, the alliance said.

"We are hitting the regime logistics facilities as well as their heavy weapons because we know Gadhafi is finding it hard to sustain his attacks on civilians," Bouchard said in a statement from his headquarters in Naples, Italy.

"One recent strike cratered the road leading to Ajdabiya, west of Brega, where his fuel and ammunition is being moved forward on large trucks. Further west we hit two more storage bunkers where the ammunition is coming from," the Canadian general said.

Loud explosions rocked the battleground town of Ajdabiya for a second day April 10, as rebel fighters advanced cautiously after suffering a major reverse at the hands of loyalists.

Meanwhile, rebels said regime forces killed at least 11 people over the weekend in Misrata, besieged by Gadhafi's forces for more than a month.

Prior to airstrikes on April 10, NATO had already taken out 15 tanks near Misrata on April 8 and 9, bringing to 29 the total number of tanks destroyed around Libya's third largest city in the past three days.

Western strikes against Gadhafi forces began on March 19 under a U.N. mandate to protect the population after Gadhafi unleashed his security forces to violently put down pro-democracy protests.

The United States handed control of the operation to NATO on March 31.

Libyan rebels have criticized NATO in recent days, accusing the alliance of failing to protect the population in Misrata.

But NATO says it is picking up the pace of air strikes.

NATO has accused Gadhafi forces were trying to thwart NATO strikes by using women and children as human shields.

"We have observed horrific examples of regime forces deliberately placing their weapons systems close to civilians, their homes and even their places of worship," Bouchard said on April 9.

"Troops have also been observed hiding behind women and children. This type of behavior violates the principles of international law and will not be tolerated," he said.

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