Libya live blog: U.S., Britain fired 159 Tomahawks since Saturday
A Libyan rebel ducks for cover behind a sand dune during a failed attempt to take the town of Ajdabiya from Gadhafi's forces Monday.
March 21st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Libya live blog: U.S., Britain fired 159 Tomahawks since Saturday

The latest developments on the situation in Libya, where coalition forces launched a series of coordinated airstrikes on Saturday after they were convinced Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was not adhering to a cease-fire mandated by the United Nations. Read our complete story and check out our full coverage on unrest in the Arab world. Also, don't miss a gripping, high-resolution gallery of images from Libya.

[11 p.m. Monday ET, 5 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] The United States fired 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya in the past 12 hours, a military spokeswoman said early Tuesday morning from the Mediterranean Sea. A total of 159 Tomahawks have been fired by the United States and the United Kingdom since an international coalition started Operation Odyssey Dawn on Saturday.

Cmdr. Monica Rousselow, a spokeswoman for the task force, also said one of the three U.S. submarines that participated at the beginning of the operation has since departed the area. She declined to say which submarine.

[8:59 p.m. Monday ET, 2:59 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] In a rare public spat, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev criticized his political mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, for Putin's comments over the use of force against Libya.

Putin on Monday said the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya was "obviously incomplete and flawed." He added that it "resembles a medieval appeal for a crusade in which somebody calls upon somebody to go to a certain place and liberate it."

A few hours later Medvedev weighed in, scolding Putin's comments, without using the prime minister's name. "It is absolutely inexcusable to use expressions that, in effect, lead to a clash of civilizations - such as 'crusades,' and so on. That is unacceptable," Medvedev said.

[8:10 p.m. Monday ET, 2:10 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] CNN correspondent Nic Robertson has rejected a Fox News report that he and other journalists were used as human shields by the Libyan government to prevent a missile attack on Gadhafi's compound.

Libyan government officials brought CNN and other news crews to the compound to view a building that was damaged late Sunday in a coalition air strike. The Fox story, posted on the outlet's website Monday, says the journalists' presence forced a British aircraft to call off firing seven missiles at the area that already had been hit.

Robertson, who was part of the CNN crew cited in the Fox story, called the rival network's report "outrageous and hypocritical." Robertson said a Fox staffer was among the journalists on the trip - which was not mentioned in the Fox report - and that the journalists in the group were hurried through their trip by their minders.

"If they wanted to use us as human shields ... they would have kept us there longer," Robertson said. "That's not what happened."

[7:49 p.m. Monday ET, 1:49 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] More U.S. legislators are expressing concern about the country's involvement in the coalition military operation in Libya. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, says the president is "stirring up a lot of controversy."

"We're not coordinating with the rebels. Are we going to leave them surrounded, and with the mercy of Gadhafi? I've never seen anything so confused in my life," Norton told CNN.

On the right, lawmakers are demanding the president better explain the U.S. mission in Libya to Congress and the American people, CNN's Dana Bash reports.

"The president should come home and call the Congress back into session and to make his case. He needs to define what the United States' vital mission is here, what is our vital interest, how does he see the potential cost unfolding here," said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Michigan, in an interview from her home district.

[6:32 p.m. Monday ET, 12:32 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] Frances Fragos Townsend, once President George W. Bush's chief counterterrorism adviser and now a CNN commentator, recalls her 2007 visit to the Gadhafi compound in Tripoli where coalition missiles heavily damaged a building on Sunday.

[5:25 p.m. Monday ET, 11:25 p.m. Monday in Libya] CNN's Ed Henry offers a deeper look at U.S. President Barack Obama's comments in Chile regarding Libya on Monday afternoon: Obama repeated Monday that Moammar Gadhafi "needs to go," but he acknowledged the Libyan dictator may remain in power for some time because the allied military mission in North Africa has a more narrow U.N. mandate of just protecting civilians.

Still, Obama noted: "I also have stated that it is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go." Obama said he's still hopeful that other "tools" the administration has used, such as freezing billions in Libyan assets, will eventually help the Libyan people push Gadhafi out.

[5:10 p.m. Monday ET, 11:10 p.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has expressed "apprehension" and "concerns" about U.S. involvement in Libya.

"Specifically, Congress needs to understand the risk involved to the lives of our service members, how long the administration anticipates U.S. involvement, the impact of our involvement on our other national security priorities like Afghanistan, and what the ultimate objective is," Begich, a member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Monday.

[4:52 p.m. Monday ET, 10:52 p.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, who already had expressed concern about U.S. and allied air strikes in Libya, has amped up his criticism of the operation, saying "there are no guidelines for success."

In an interview set to air Monday on CNN's "John King, USA," Lugar, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the operation has not been clearly defined.

"I do not understand the mission because as far as I can tell in the United States there is no mission and there are no guidelines for success," Lugar, R-Indiana, told CNN's John King. "That may well be true with our allies although conceivably they may have other missions in mind and simply try to get Security Council clearance to proceed."

[4:46 p.m. Monday ET, 10:46 p.m. Monday in Libya] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's momentum has stopped and rebels have been able to hold onto areas that government forces had been poised to capture just a few days ago, a U.S. official said Monday.

However, an opposition spokesman said Gadhafi's forces have continued to fight in Mistata, the last city in western Libya under rebel control, despite the Libyan government's declaration of a cease-fire. "There is no cease-fire in Misrata," said Mohamed, who would not divulge his last name out of concern for his safety. "The destruction is unimaginable."

Late Monday, state television reported that Misrata was firmly in the hands of Libyan government forces.

[4:42 p.m. Monday ET, 10:42 p.m. Monday in Libya] The U.N. Security Council has decided to not take action Monday on Libya's request for an emergency meeting on attacks. Discussions will likely continue at a planned Thursday briefing on Libya by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Libya's government is pressing for an end to what it calls an aggression against the country.

[4:08 p.m. Monday ET, 10:08 p.m. Monday in Libya] Oil prices surged in electronic trading Monday after coalition forces launched an attack on Libyan military targets over the weekend, CNNMoney reports.

The benchmark U.S. contract, West Texas Intermediate, gained as much as $2.28 to top $103 a barrel for April delivery. It later dropped back to settle $1.26 higher at $102.33 a barrel. The more active May contract jumped $1.24 to settle at $103.09 a barrel. It briefly topped $104 in earlier trading.

[3:47 p.m. Monday ET, 9:47 p.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. President Barack Obama is getting heat from a member of his own party regarding the military action in Libya.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the seven-term liberal Democrat from Ohio who has twice run for the White House, says Obama committed an "impeachable offense" in deciding to authorize U.S. airstrikes over Libya Saturday without the consent of Congress.

"President Obama moved forward without Congress approving. He didn't have Congressional authorization, he has gone against the Constitution, and that's got to be said," Kucinich told the web site Raw Story on Monday. "It's not even disputable, this isn't even a close question."

[3:33 p.m. Monday ET, 9:33 p.m. Monday in Libya] Below is a video of CNN's Nic Robertson, reporting on explosions that he heard this afternoon in Tripoli. He says he heard at least two blasts, apparently coming from the direction of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound. Antu-aircraft gunfire followed the blast.

The new explosions come a day after a building in Gadhafi's compound was damaged in an apparent coalition airstrike.

[3:17 p.m. Monday ET, 9:17 p.m. Monday in Libya] Explosions were heard minutes ago in Tripoli, CNN's Nic Robertson reported.

Robertston, who is in Tripoli, said anti-aircraft gunfire has followed the explosions.

[3:08 p.m. Monday ET, 9:08 p.m. Monday in Libya] President Barack Obama, addressing the situation in Libya during a trip to Chile, told reporters that a condition for the United States to step back from leading the Libyan military mission is the disabling of Libya's air defenses. This is so that NATO allies and other coalition partners can effectively enforce a no-fly zone, he said.

"We anticipate this transition to take place in a matter of days, not weeks," Obama said.

[2:58 p.m. Monday ET, 8:58 p.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. President Barack Obama, addressing the situation in Libya during a trip to Chile, said that "it is U.S. policy" that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi "has to go."

Obama said the core principle of the military mission is that the international community "can't stand by with empty words" in the face of an imminent humanitarian catastrophe such as a leader using military force against his own people.

[1:45 p.m. Monday ET, 7:45 p.m. Monday in Libya] Four New York Times journalists who were reported captured by pro-government forces in Libya last week have been released and have arrived safely in Tunisia, the paper's Executive Editor Bill Keller said Monday in an e-mail obtained by CNN. "We're particularly indebted to the Government of Turkey, which intervened on our behalf to oversee the release of our journalists and bring them to Tunisia," Keller said in the e-mail which was sent to New York Times staff. "We were also assisted throughout the week by diplomats from the United States and United Kingdom."

[12:44 p.m. Monday ET, 6:44 p.m. Monday in Libya] There is no intent to destroy the Libyan military forces, Gen. Carter Ham, a top U.S. commander said Monday, but the coalition will strike against forces that are threatening or attacking civilians, he said.

[12:30 p.m. Monday ET, 6:30 p.m. Monday in Libya] The coalition flew 70 to 80 sorties over Libya on Monday, up from 60 on Sunday, said Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command. The United States flew fewer than half of the Monday missions and about half of the Sunday sorties, Ham said.

Canadian and Belgian air force planes flew for the first time Monday. "We are hopeful that other nations will continue to join us," Ham said. "Some have made very firm offers."

[12:26 p.m. Monday ET, 6:26 p.m. Monday in Libya] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may remain the leader of Libya after the coalition mission has ended, the commander of U.S. forces said Monday.

"I could see accomplishing the military mission which has been assigned to me and the current leader would remain the current leader," Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander, U.S. Africa Command, said. "Is that ideal? I don't think anyone would say that that is ideal, but I could envision that as a possible situation - at least for the current mission that I have."

[12:19 p.m. Monday ET, 6:19 p.m. Monday in Libya] Coalition strikes not designed to kill Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, says.

[12:10 p.m. Monday ET, 6:10 p.m. Monday in Libya] There are no U.S. or coalition forces on the ground in Libya, Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, says.

[12:05 p.m. Monday ET, 6:05 p.m. Monday in Libya] Coalition mission doesn't include protecting forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said Monday.

[11:32 a.m. Monday ET, 5:32 p.m. Monday in Libya] Coalition members were still working out Monday how the ongoing of maintaining the no-fly zone over Libya would be commanded, U.S. officials said.

NATO could command the coalition's no-fly mission in Libya, but some Arab nations are hesitant to fly under a NATO banner, which has held up the move, said one official, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of negotiations.

The coalition has 10 announced partners: Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain and the United States.

[9:05 a.m. Monday ET, 3:05 p.m. Monday in Libya] The involvement of U.S. military aircraft in strikes on Libya has "plateaued," a spokesman for United States Africa Command says. The U.S. conducted missile strikes overnight, spokesman Vince Crowley said.

[8:23 a.m. Monday ET, 2:18 p.m. Monday in Libya] Four New York Times journalists who were reported captured by pro-government forces in Libya last week have been released and are in the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli, Turkey's ambassador to Libya, Levent Sahin Kaya, told CNN Monday. Read full story.

[7:18 a.m. Monday ET, 1:18 p.m. Monday in Libya] Oil prices surged more than $2 a barrel in electronic trading Monday after coalition forces launched an attack on Libyan military targets on Saturday. The benchmark U.S. contract, West Texas Intermediate, gained $2.11 to $103.18 a barrel for April delivery. The more active May contract jumped $2.21  to $104.06 a barrel.

[6:32 a.m. Monday ET, 12:32 p.m. Monday in Libya] The British Ministry of Defense said it halted a mission to attack a target in Libya because of information about civilians in the area.

"As the RAF GR4 Tornados moved into the area, further information came to light that identified a number of civilians within the intended target area," the ministry said in a statement Monday. "As a result the decision was taken not to launch weapons. This decision underlines the UK's commitment to the protection of civilians."

[6:02 a.m. Monday ET, 12:02 p.m. Monday in Libya] A witness in the Libyan city of Misrata reported "absolute destruction and carnage" by forces supporting leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday - despite the regime's recent call for a cease-fire.

"Misrata is being flattened and razed to the ground as we speak," said the man, who was not identified safety reasons. "He (Gadhafi) is using tanks and snipers to terrorize the city."

He added, "They are shooting people in the main street and on the back street."

CNN could not independently confirm reports from Misrata early Monday.

[5:57 a.m. Monday ET, 11:57 a.m. Monday in Libya] A group of supporters of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi chanted "Down with the USA" and confronted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he was leaving the Arab League buidling in Cairo on Monday, a UN spokesman said.

Spokesman Khawla Mattar said Ban was "fine" and "it was not a serious incident." "They were not chanting anti-UN slogans. They were probably just trying to send a message through the UN," he said.

[4:21 a.m. Monday ET, 10:21 a.m. Monday in Libya] The French government disputed claims of civilian deaths in Libya from recent airstrikes.

"There is no information of killed civilians recorded by the French command," French government spokesman Francois Baroin said on the French TV channel Canal+ Monday.

Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi's regime claimed that dozens of people - mostly women, children and clerics - have been killed in the international airstrikes that started Saturday.

"We must be cautious of communication campaigns and propaganda. ... This is a military operation and a communications campaign battle," Baroin said. "We have to trust what the international community is communicating."

[2:14 a.m. Monday ET, 8:14 a.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said it would be "unwise" to set specific goals about targeting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi directly during attacks.

"I think that it's important that we operate within the mandate of the U.N. Security Council resolution," Gates told reporters Sunday while on a plane to Russia. "If we start adding additional objectives, then I think we create a problem in that respect.  I also think that it is unwise to set as specific goals, things that you may or may not be able to achieve."

The Security Council resolution, which passed Thursday, allows member states "to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country ... while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory," according to the United Nations.

[12:34 a.m. Monday ET, 6:34 a.m. Monday in Libya] A coalition military official has confirmed that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound was targeted by airstrikes Sunday night. The compound was targeted, the official said, because it contains capabilities to exercise command and control over Libyan forces and the coalition goal is to degrade his military capabilities. Earlier, Western journalists, including CNN's Nic Robertson, were brought inside the compound to survey the destruction.

[10:51 p.m. Sunday ET, 4:51 a.m. Monday in Libya] An announced list of the countries participating in the military coalition: The United States, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar and Spain.

U.S. officials have said they plan to hand over operational control of the military mission in coming days.

soundoff (435 Responses)
  1. jay

    Mr. Obama is also a idiot like Bush.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corwin7

      Ummmm...that would be "President" Obama in countries that teach basic english...additionally, "an" is the preposition that should preceed when the next word starts with a vowel like "idiot" ... a word I'm sure you have some personal experience with...

      March 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. gandoman

    America needs to covertly parachute into Libya a small group armed to the teeth.
    They would be led by John McCain with Sarah Palin 2nd in command. After all, she now has enough international diplomacy experience. Add 10 Republican Congressmen to the mix & we accomplish three very important things.
    1. It would finally justify McCain's choice of Palin to be his running mate.
    2. Palin could benefit from some real combat experience instead of shooting unarmed animals.
    3. The Congressmen could deploy among the people & explain their version of HEALTHCARE for the future Libya.
    A 'win win' situation for everyone!
    Of course, if they were captured & beheaded, it's another 'win win' for the America I love.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sifu

    What is so hard to understand????? Thousands were about to die in Benghazi because of a psycopath. The UNITED NATIONS responsibility is to protect the LIBYAN PEOPLE from Gadhafi. IT was urgent that we intervened. Many countries support this. Why is everyone crying that we shot a couple of missiles at buildings to save people's lives???

    March 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jay

    guess who will not have job after supporting the war in libia.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corwin7

      Ummm. I would say Colonel Gaddafi if I'm understanding the situation right...that really was a simple question friend.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Big_D

    Why does Lugar immediately make me think of Magoo looking for his cigar lighter?

    March 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gil Baba

    I saw that some people criticizes this Obama guy for attacking Libya. I don't get it, he said he wasn't going to be involved these guys said he was chicken he was embarrassing America. He is now stopping a massacre they are asking what America is doing in Libya. This is what these critics said when the Canadian general cried to the world that massacre was going to happen these types of critics said US has no security interest in Rwanda and over 600,000 civilians died in a week. Everyone is talking now because they was no massacre. Obama can never win in anything he does

    March 21, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • jay

      i think obama is another bush by supporting the war.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corwin7

      @ Jay I am sure I speak for all of us bothering to read your last several posts that allowing you to use the term "I think" would be a bit of an overstatement.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. justan oppinion

    It would be alot cheaper and more fun if the US simply flew helocopters 24hrs a day spraying pig blood and bacon over the entire middle east.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sonny

    To our Serbian guest.........so sorry you didnt get the message. I wrote it on as many bombs as I could. "Get rid of your dirty little dictator because the big brother of all those genocide victims has come to kick your a**" Of course a rascist Serbian would simpathize with the mad dog of the middle east. Molosovich and Gadaffi should share a cell together in The Hague.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Andy666

    What's so hard to understand. the US is helping the rebels, like the UN sanctioned, by preventing the crazy killing of them by Gadafi. It's up to the rebels to seize the day, and take matter into their own hands. We're just de-clawing the tiger, as it were.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bbarc

    Is anyone else's head spinning from some of this crap! For God is not the author of confusion but of peace. I Corinthians 14:33a Come on Elliot! Ask better questions?

    March 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jason

    Anyone who has a problem with Obama exercising a little temporary authority as Commander in Chief, has not bothered to study, or failed a course on the 1973 War Powers Act. He has 60 days to report to Congress, legally. Until that time, he commands as he pleases. Give it to him. GOPers are all about do as I say, not as I do. That's very hypocritical.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bbarc

    Yeah! Finally a conversation!

    March 21, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. gandoman

    FOR GOD'S SAKE ..... WE ARE TALKING ABOUT LIBYA!
    There are only TWO important goals here.
    1. Kill Gadhafi & all his family.
    2. Do not put Americans & their allies into ground combat.
    Who cares what becomes of Libya afterwards? No one I know personally & I know a lot of people.
    GET IN – GET OUT – WATCH & SEE WAT HAPPENS!
    We could also parachute Sarah Palin into the desert as an example of where Democracy goes wrong.
    Libya could eventually have two major political partys..
    Democrats – people working for citizens rights & healthcare & social security, etc.
    Republicans – people working to immediately separate the rich from the poor, then separate them even further, introduce greed & profit as the nations economic goal & use the new Libyan Supreme Court to prove Charlton Heston was a direct descendant of Mohammed & it's their 'religious right' to carry any weapon they choose.
    What a world!

    March 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bbarc

    Iraq! Why did it take so long then? It's about oil. Think Rwanda, Think Dafur, Think Aids.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      We cannot get a UN resolution passed to take action in those regions because of China's relationship with the Khartoum gov't in Sudan and others. China being on the security council has kept us out of many humanitarian issues.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • S1N

      We see this same dog and pony show every administration. Reagan, Clinton, both Bushes, and Obama have all used the authorizations given them by Congress in the War Powers Resolution of 1973. No Congress has seriously attempted to change its position on the matter. Nor has the U.S. Supreme Court ever issued a majority opinion on the matter either way.

      The WPR gives the president the express permission to mobilize and utilize military forces so long as Congress is officially notified within 48 hours. The President can continue to use such forces for up to 60 days, allowing for an additional 30-day withdraw window. He needs Congressional approval to continue such use of military personnel after the 60-day mark.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • matthew

      agreed

      March 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • bbarc

      For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there inthe midst of them. Matthew 18:20

      March 22, 2011 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. Liz Carter in Georgia

    CNN has gone down deep into the CONGRESS for more instigating purposes to find someone to say they were not aware of what was going to happen! They found a few haters on both sides who claim to be so upset that OBAMA went ahead and authorized the military to go on to LIBYA! We were hearing from CONGRESSMEN, even on local tv newshows and Sundays' MIKE WALLACE, CHRIS WALLACE, MEET THE PRESS, etc., he was dragging his feet; we should have already been over there! 'PEOPLE ARE DYING, WHAT'S HE GONNA TO DO'!

    March 21, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Letter to Moammar Gadhafi
      Stop killing.
      We watched as your protesters asked for be treated as people. Not as your personal animals that you can tell what to do. That you can take off the street at will. That you can go into their homes and grab anyone you want any time you want. Beat them or kill them at will. This is not a leader.
      Stop killing
      If international leaders tell you to stop killing. You tell them to go away, to not interfere, it is not their problem, but the world can all watch you from anywhere and we all say.
      Stop Killing.
      It is your answer for everything. We do not care if you live or die. We do not care about your oil. We do not any longer want to live in fear. You threaten us every day. We have heard enough.
      Stop Killing.
      When your leaders tell you they will not kill on your behalf. You say Kill them then. The world has watched. You can’t deny it.
      Stop Killing.
      You say Americans are killing, France is killing, British is killing, you think this is the same. So this gives you the right to kill. You are wrong. It is not the same. You say we will never surrender, we will fight to the last. That is all you understand. We do not want to fight. We want to live. We want to have a say in our laws, in our policies, in our work, All you know is fighting. The fighting must stop. You must let the people out of prison that are only there because they disagree with you. You kill every day. Grab taxi drivers for no reason and take them to jail. The people live in fear every day. You took over from a king saying you are for the people. You are not. You are coward. Where are you when the troops go out? You are hiding in a cave. Where are you when you are asked to account for your acts. You hide like a coward. You blame everyone else. You must be a man and face your accusers and admit that you don’t know how to lead, all you know how to do is kill.
      Stop killing.

      March 22, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
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