Libya live blog: U.S., allies launch missiles against Gadhafi forces
A Tomahawk missile is launched from the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn late Saturday night.
March 19th, 2011
09:50 PM ET

Libya live blog: U.S., allies launch missiles against Gadhafi forces

The latest developments on the situation in Libya, where the government declared a cease-fire Friday after the United Nations voted to impose a no-fly zone in response to weeks of bloody clashes between forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and rebels. 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.

[9:50 p.m. ET, 3:50 a.m. in Libya] A woman in Tripoli says she was awoken this morning by a loud explosion from a nearby military base.

After being shaken from her sleep around 2:20 a.m., she said she heard gunfire and went to the roof of her building to observe.

"Then I heard the second explosion," she said. She saw fire rising up from the direction of Mitiga Airport, formerly known as the U.S. Wheelus Air Base.

She also said that people continue to live in fear of Gadhafi. "They're afraid to come out because when they do, he attacked them very, very severely," she says. "This is putting terror in all neighborhoods."

[9:30 p.m. ET, 3:30 a.m. in Libya] State TV in Libya reported early Sunday that 48 people were killed and 150 injured in coalition airstrikes. CNN was not immediately able to independently confirm the report.

[9:20 p.m. ET, 3:20 a.m. in Libya] Britain's Royal Air Force the RAF has launched Stormshadow missiles from a number of Tornado GR4 fast jets as part of a series of coordinated coalition strikes against Libya, the Ministry of Defense said.

"We made clear that if Gaddafi did not comply with the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, it would be enforced through military action. Our Armed Forces have therefore participated in a co-ordinated international coalition strike against key military installations," defense secretary Liam Fox said in a statement.

"The fast jets flew 3,000 miles from RAF Marham and back making this the longest range bombing mission conducted by the RAF since the Falklands conflict," he said. "HMS Westminster is off the coast of Libya and HMS Cumberland is in the region ready to support operations. Typhoon aircraft are also standing by to provide support."

[9:10 p.m. ET, 3:10 a.m. in Libya] Benghazi remains eerily quiet but tense after a day of fights between Gadhafi supporters and opposition fighters, CNN's Arwa Damon reports.

Anti-Gadhafi forces in Benghazi were buoyed by the international intervention but still expect more to come from Gadhafi.

"This is not yet a victory for them. They expect Gadhafi forces to carry something out again, they do not think this is over," she said. "People do not take Gadhafi's threats lightly. They have learned from four decades of his rule. They expect him to plan some kind of maneuver."

[8:45 p.m. ET, 2:45 a.m. in Libya] It is now mostly quiet in Tripoli, just minutes after sustained anti-aircraft gunfire, Robertson reports.

[8:33 p.m. ET, 2:33 a.m. in Libya] Heavy anti-aircraft gunfire can be heard in Tripoli, CNN's Nic Robertson reported.

Robertson said anti-aircraft gunfire also was heard a few hours ago, but it is now more intense. The current round followed a couple of loud explosions, Robertson reported from Tripoli.

[8:26 p.m. ET, 2:26 a.m. in Libya] The Department of State has issued a statement reminding media organizations that no U.S. officials remain in Libya, limiting its ability to provide assistance to U.S. citizens or other employees of U.S.-based news organizations. The State Department continues to advise against travel to Libya and urges U.S. citizens already in Libya to depart immediately.

[7:41 p.m. ET, 1:41 a.m. in Libya] After delaying his trip to Russian, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been keeping a close eye on the situation in Libya, a Pentagon spokesman said.

"Secretary Gates has been in near constant contact with the Joint Staff as planning for Operation Odyssey Dawn has evolved. He has conducted multiple individual and conference with National Security Adviser Donilon and President Obama. And, of course, he continues to receive a steady flow of operational and intelligence information," spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

[6:20 p.m. ET, 12:20 a.m. in Libya] A defiant Moammar Gadhafi says missile strikes launched Saturday night are grounds for a "crusade war" and vowed to fight back.

"The Libyan people will fight against this aggression. All you people of the Islamic nations and Africa. And all you people in Latin America, and asia to stand with the Libyan people in its fight agaist this aggression," he said.

"France has carried an aggression against Libya. The security council and the international community has a responsibility to do what it takes about this aggression against the sovereign state."

[6:01 p.m. ET, 12:01 a.m. in Libya] Hours after coalition forces launched the first wave of attacks against his military forces, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said his people will fight back against undeserved "naked aggression."

Libyan state TV broadcast Gadhafi's response, which included a call for people to take arms in the "war zone."

[5:45 p.m. ET, 11:45 p.m. in Libya] Moammar Gadhafi is due to make an address soon, according to media reports citing Libyan TV.

[5:36 p.m. ET, 11:36 p.m. in Libya] Russia reacted "with regret" Saturday to the start of international military action in Libya, urging an end to violence on all sides.

It said the United Nations resolution that authorized the use of force had been "hastily adopted."

"We again urge all Libyan sides, as well as the participants of the military operation, to do everything they can to prevent the suffering of innocent civilians and to ensure a speedy cease-fire and an end to violence," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

[5:04 p.m. ET, 11:04 p.m. in Libya] Armed police are gathering outside government buildings in Tripoli and the streets are mostly clear of the revelers that had gathered earlier Saturday evening, CNN's Nic Robertson said.

Earlier, people were playing music and dancing in the street outside Gadhafi's palace compound in an apparent show of celebration, Roberston said. The missile strikes were inaudible over the music and revelry, he said.

[5:04 p.m. ET, 11:04 p.m. in Libya] Coalition strikes were launched despite a government-initiated cease-fire and "major reforms in economic and organizational contexts," a Libyan government spokesman says.

"The claim that this aggression is for the protection of civilians is contradicted by what has really happened on the ground tonight."

[5:04 p.m. ET, 11:04 p.m. in Libya] President Obama is planning for the U.S. portion of the military action in Libya to only last for a few days, according to a senior administration official.

"In terms of the heavy kinetic portion of this military action, the president envisions it as lasting days, not weeks," said the senior official. "After that we'll take more of a supporting role."

[4:58 p.m. ET, 10:58 p.m. in Libya] Air attacks on several locations in Tripoli and Misrata have caused "real harm" to civilians, a Libyan government spokesman said Saturday.

"I am very sorry and saddened that my country is facing a barbaric and armed attack," the spokesman said, adding that "this aggression will not weaken our spirits."

[4:28 p.m. ET, 10:28 p.m. in Libya] More than 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from U.S and British ships and submarines, striking more than 20 integrated air defense systems and air defense facilities ashore, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said Saturday.

The goals of "Operation Odyssey Dawn" are to prevent further attacks on Libyan citizens and opposition groups and to degrade the capability of Moammar Gadhafi's forces to resist a no-fly zone, Vice Admiral William E. Gortney Director said.

The strikes were carefully coordinated based on an assessment of whether the targets posed a direct threat to coalition pilots or to the people of Libya, he said.

"This is an international military effort urged by the Libyan people themselves and other Arab nations," Gortney said, noting that U.S. military forces are on the "leadership edge" of the operation.

"This is just the first phase of what will likely be a multi-phase designed to enforce the U.N. Security Council resolution."

[4:10 p.m. ET, 10:10 p.m. in Libya] U.S. President Barack Obama said military action in Libya is not an outcome the United States had sought.

"The use of force is not our first choice, and it is not a choice I make lightly," he said in an audio message from Brazil. "But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy and his forces step up their assault."

He also said the United States will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground on Libya. Obama emphasized that the United States was acting as part of a broad coalition of U.S. allies to enforce the U.N. Security Council resolution, and not unilaterally.

"The writ of the international community must be enforced," he said. "We are answering the calls of a threatened people and we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world."

[3:55 p.m. ET, 9:55 p.m. in Libya] The U.S. military has launched its first missiles in Libya against Moammar Gadhafi's forces in the western part of the country, a senior Defense Department official said Saturday.

U.S. Tomahawk missiles landed in the area around Tripoli and Misrata, the official said, adding that the action was taken after Gadhafi failed to comply with a cease-fire.

The first part of the multi-phase approach will be to degrade air defenses, CNN's Chris Lawrence reports, citing the Defense Department official. Most of the first strikes will be concentrated around Tripoli and Misrata, specifically to take out his air defenses. Ground forces will be targeted as well because they carry capability to shoot down planes, the official said.

[3:44 p.m. ET, 9:44 p.m. in Libya] British Prime Minister David Cameron said military action was necessary to enforce the cease-fire and prevent Moammar Gadhafi from attacking his people.

"What we are doing is necessary, it is legal and it is right," he said. "I believe we should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people."

[2:32 p.m. ET, 8:32 p.m. in Libya] A U.S. defense official said the United States is poised to launch cruise missiles from warships in the Mediterranean Sea, and that these strikes would target Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses. The United States is prepared to "defend its allies flying over Libyan airspace and enforce the no-fly zone," the official said.

[1:15 p.m. ET, 7:15 p.m. in Libya] French planes fired on a Libyan military vehicle Saturday evening, according to the French Defense Ministry.

[12:43 p.m. ET, 6:43 p.m. in Libya] The United States is standing with its allies and partners in enforcing the U.N. resolution on Libya, and it is also behind the Libyan people, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday. "We will stand with the people of Libya and we will not waiver (in our effort) to protect them," she said.

[12:39 p.m. ET, 6:39 p.m. in Libya] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Arab League's stance on Libya, saying it "changed the diplomatic landscape." The group last week approved the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya.

[12:36 p.m. ET, 6:36 p.m. in Libya] The Libyan government "has lost all legitimacy," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday, adding that the international community is right to enforce immediately the United Nations resolution. "Further delay will only put more civilians at risk," she said in Paris.

[12:34 p.m. ET, 6:34 p.m. in Libya] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that despite talk of a cease-fire from Libya, Moammar Gadhafi "continues to defy the world." "His attacks on civilians go on," she told reporters Saturday.

[11:04 a.m. ET, 5:04 p.m. in Libya] The French air force is opposing any aggression by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi against the population of rebel-held Benghazi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Saturday. "As of now, our aircraft are preventing planes from attacking the town," Sarkozy said. "Our French aircraft are ready to intervene against tanks."

[10:58 a.m. ET, 4:58 p.m. in Libya] Countries attending a meeting in Paris sent Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi a warning, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Saturday.

"If there is not an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of the forces that have been attacking civilian populations in the last few weeks, our countries will have recourse to military means," Sarkozy said. Sarkozy said the warning was endorsed by all participants at the Paris summit.

Libya's population "must not be deprived of its rights by violence and terror," Sarkozy said. "There is still time for Colonel Gadhafi to avoid the worst, by complying immediately and unreservedly with all the demands of the international community. The doors of diplomacy will open once again when the aggression stops."

[10:51 a.m. ET, 4:51 p.m. in Libya] U.S., European and Arab leaders met Saturday at a last-minute Paris meeting on Libya.  "There is minute-by-minute consultation between the United States and the militaries of other countries that are considering their support of action" under a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force, a senior State Department official told reporters.

[10:40 a.m. ET, 4:40 p.m. in Libya] A French official confirms that French fighter jets are flying over Libya.

[9:55 a.m. ET, 3:55 p.m. in Libya] Moammar Gadhafi's military forces pushed into the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on Saturday. Artillery rounds landed inside the city, and pro-Gadhafi tanks rolled into the town firing rounds, witnesses said. Plumes of smoke rose in Benghazi as civilians said buildings came under small arms fire.

[7:35 a.m. ET, 1:35 p.m. in Libya] Oil production has been dropping and Libya wants foreign and Libyan employees to go back to the oil fields, Libyan oil minister Shukri Ghanem told reporters Saturday.

[6:19 a.m. ET Saturday, 12:19 p.m. in Libya] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's government on Saturday sent harsh messages to leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "You have no right ever to intervene in our internal affairs," said a letter read by Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim. The letter also said the government would never fire "a single bullet" against its citizens. Gadhafi's government continued to blame the conflict in Libya on al Qaeda.

[6:05 a.m. ET Saturday, 12:05 p.m. in Libya] A CNN team saw tanks belonging to forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi enter Benghazi on Saturday, and observed rebel tanks moving to confront them. Tank, mortar and artillery fire echoed across the city, interspersed with sustained bursts of small arms fire. Plumes of smoke could been seen rising above Benghazi.

[4:35 a.m. ET Saturday, 10:35 a.m. in Libya] CNN journalists observed tanks moving north from 5 kilometers south of Benghazi and other tanks moving through the western part of the city. It is not known which side the tanks belonged to. The journalists also saw tank and artillery rounds land inside the city.

[3:56 a.m. ET Saturday, 9:56 a.m. in Libya] A fighter jet was shot down and burst into flames Saturday in the area of Benghazi. Meanwhile, explosions could be heard in the city, which has been a stronghold for rebels opposing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. It was not immediately clear who the fighter jet belonged to. Rebels have vowed to defend Benghazi to the death.

On Friday, the Libyan government said it was abiding by a cease-fire, but witnesses have said violence from pro-Gadhafi forces has continued.

[12:23 a.m. ET Saturday, 6:23 a.m. in Libya] Agence France-Presse reported airstrikes and explosions Saturday morning in an area southwest of Benghazi. CNN had not independently confirmed the report.

soundoff (770 Responses)
  1. Simon

    So, why not send envoys and try to end the war between Gadhafi and the oppositions?

    March 19, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • dave in Ohio

      Perhaps we should call you "simple" Simon. Quadafi has no interest in negotiation. He will simply keep killing those who oppose him.

      March 19, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  2. Gentlemen For U

    First the World must cut-off the three headed snake! The main head of the snake is Gadhafi and the remaining heads are his sons! After the snake is taken out, then let the Libyans liberate their own country. Gadhafi has been playing the World community for too long. Ask the victims families of his act terrorism what should the World do.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. J0eschm0e

    Obama is going to lead us into world war 3.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      Obama can't even lead us to the dinner table.

      March 19, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Tomas

      Naw, this one isn't that important. But the military industrial complex WILL keep us in perpetual "war for profit" no matter what president we have. The US's second largest export is WAR MACHINES! The IS makes about one half of the land mines that Princess Di wanted to make illegal. If we stopped, unemployment in Arkansas would rise by 2%. Wake up America and "waste" your money on health insurance, education, housing, whatever else PLEASE and let the military machine whither to s specter of what we now have. Darth Vader isn't our father – he's US! We're the evil empire. WHERE IS THE SOVIET UNION TO KEEP THIS BEAST IN CHECK AND BALANCE SUPER POWER. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and we've proved it over the last 20 years.

      March 19, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  4. Simon

    Most of western invassions causes only more Alqaida, recession, and lowlessness. We see the outcome of Iraq. There is no law exists in Iraq. Its all about the showdown of Alqaida, Shia, and Sunnis. Anything goes. But when Sadam was there, Alqaida wasn't able to do anything. However, if Obama believes democracy; he should let the Libiyans deal with the problems, they can do it and if not let other Arab nations deal with it. Otherwise, Obama shouldn't critize the Bush invassion of Iraq. Also, he should worry fix his economy and prevent the government shut down. A single Tomahawk causes 1 million U.S. dollars. People need that 1 millin up here.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tomas

    Civil wars have usually been off limits to foriegn governments for good reason. Both brothers usually turn on you when you butt in. If England had stepped in on the side of the South in June of 1863, before Gettysburg, Obama would still be picking cotton! Thats not racist, thats a fact.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Cesar

      Quite true Tomas,quite true. Both Germany and Italy butted into the Spanish Civil War and The Franco forces won as a result of that,especially the use of upward of 100,000 Italian forces who were chiefly responsable for the outcome!

      March 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. devinjgray

    After the UN voted to approve the use of force, I read that the approximatee cost to impose th no-fly zone will be $300 miilion per week. I am completely ignorant with respect to military budgets and expenses, but I do know that we are currently slashing billions of dollars from domestic programs to reduce a deficit that is in the trillions. Still, I believe the United States, as a world power and a beacon of freedom, cannot ignore a population that cries for help against one of the most ruthless dictators that the world has ever seen. Is the help too late? I don't know, but if so it is not due to inaction by President Obama. This was a decision made by the UN, and emergency meetings of the security council can be called at any time, so all member nations are responsible if delay has caused problems. I'm so glad that this president acted as a member of communiy, rather than as the world's only police man. Our arrogance in previous years has cost us dearly, in terms of resources, world respect, and precious human life. I hope that we have learned that we can not and should not force our will upon the world through military might. Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be a mess after years of intervention. Meanwhile, moral support and diplomacy in Egypt gained us respect and cost almost nothing. I do hope that the world community picks up the tab for it's share of the bill in Libya. I pray for the safety of those sent to intervene. I pray for the safety of the Libyan people, and a speedy end to their suffering. And I pray for wisdom for our country and it's leaders, as we allocate resources in a time of ongoing economic crisis and suffering of our own people.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua

      Well thought out post.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • JB

      there are sane people.. nice post

      March 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Thanks for your thoughtful post.

      March 20, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  7. JimH52

    I am very disappointed that Gadhafi forces were allowed to go into Benghazi. The liar Quackdaffy is saying that the cease fire is being kept, while he is slaughtering civilians. When the tanks approached city limits, a few cruise missles could have driven them back. The UN has given authorization. Now that they are in the city, it is going to be much harder.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. JimH52

    devinjgray, well said!

    March 19, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. Attila The hun

    kill em all

    March 19, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. Registration Services

    America needs to remain strong. If you are a man 18-25 and need assistance registering for the draft, visit http://www.TheDraft.us.

    March 19, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua

      I don't think Libya is a third world country.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jack

    I heard that Gadhafi is the only third world leader, who gives unemployment benifit to his people and free medical. Its realy nice to find the real fact before going to a war. My advice to Libipyan poeple is to be careful what they are asking for. My other point is that, third wolrd nations are not ready for democracy. Because the colinists make them that way. They have supported dicatators for a long time. Remember always, there are times that incidents or events are preventable. Also, do we know what are the oppositions are?. W need to understand, Libiyans are 140 tribes. Do you think by killing Gadhafi will result a lasting peace? I don't think so.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. Midnight

    Whenever on world anglo-americans dont control oil there has been problems with 'democracy', human rights etc..Comparing to tham hittler and nazi germany is nothing.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. mike

    I'm tired of these two bit tin dictators doing whatever they want and telling the US what to do. We are a super power but we won't be for long if we let this guy win. We need to attack RIGHT NOW take this guy out and go home.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  14. Quaker 75

    I happen to think that in this case the United States needs to take a pass; however, we are entering an election year and with that people need to look forceful and our president has waffled on foreign affairs numerous times. This event is his chance to appear strong. I do not think that Libyan oil or humanitarian efforts have anything to do with our entry. North Africa was territory of Western and Southern Europe. We have little to gain and much to lose. Let them send all the planes. This conflict will be our police operation. The United Nations is the United States.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. Boney

    To late again!
    To late to agree on no fly zone. To late to implemented now! Why? Because of inconsistent/udecisive policies and weak leadership. Yes weak leadership. For the "Great Power" not to be the main military force involved is OK. But not to be the world coordinator in the effort to maintain and build further on the developing events in Libya is a leadership failure. What about the shown double standard in relation to Qatar and Yemen. What about the rest of the world dictators like in Cote D'Ivoire. A great show of lack direction and commitment. Bravo!!!!!!

    March 19, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
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