Pentagon: Over 110 Missiles Fired at 20 Targets Inside Libya
U.S. military officials have confirmed the first American tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired at targets inside Libya from ships in the Mediterranean Sea.
The move is the first direct U.S. involvement in the international operation mobilizing to stop Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's attacks on opposition strongholds and enforce a U.N.-backed no-fly zone.
Pentagon officials said there were 11 U.S. ships stationed in the Mediterranean Sea, including three submarines and two destroyers capable of firing cruise missiles, and several amphibious ships and supply ships.
The first strikes in what is being called "Operation Odyssey Dawn" were expected to target air defense missile sites around Tripoli, Misratah, and Surt, but no areas east of that or near Benghazi, officials said.
President Obama told members of Congress Friday that he had not yet authorized the use of U.S. planes, but a senior military official said Saturday that U.S. aircraft would be involved. It's unclear if those planes include bombers and fighters among support aircraft that could provide airborne surveillance, refueling and radar-jamming capabilities.
Earlier today, French warplanes destroyed several Libyan military vehicles, including tanks, in eastern Libya, as pro-Gadhafi forces battled towards the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, French Defense officials said.
At one point a fighter jet resembling a Libyan MiG 27 was shot down over the city, according to news reports from inside Libya.
Meanwhile, world leaders met in Paris to discuss the nature and scope of the international military intervention to make Gadhafi respect a U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians.
"Our planes are blocking the air attacks on the city" of Benghazi, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said following the meeting. It was also clear the effort would target ground forces, including tanks, that might be used against the Libyan people.
French, British and Canadian aircraft were expected to launch sorties as night falls over the country, ahead of a larger coalition deployment that could happen later in the day. Spain and Denmark have also contributed fighter planes to the international force.
"We have every reason to fear that left unchecked, Gadhafi would commit unspeakable atrocities," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters following the meeting in Paris. "Further delay will only put more civilians at risk. So let me be very clear on the position of the United States: We will support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce" the U.N. resolution.
President Obama, in Brazil for the first stop on a trip to Latin America, told reporters the international consensus on Libya remained "strong, and our resolve is clear."
"The people of Libya must be protected," Obama said at a press conference with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. "And in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians, our coalition is prepared to act and act with urgency."
Gadhafi warned the international coalition Friday not to interfere in Libyan affairs, calling the U.N. resolution "invalid" and appealing directly to world leaders, including President Obama, in a letter.
"Libya is not yours. Libya is for the Libyans," he said in the letter. "If you had found them taking over American cities with armed force, tell me what you would do."
The United States, Britain and France issued a joint statement late Friday, with backing from several Arab countries, warning the "international community will make him [Gadhafi] suffer the consequences" unless he stops the attacks, restores water, electric and gas services and allows humanitarian aid to enter the country.