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. Beth

    As a person who lived in Tripoli for two years, I can honestly say it's not the average person who wants this fight. All I can say after that is that I hope my sister and her family are alright, and the aim of the missiles has improved since the last bomblngs in Tripoli by outside forces.

    March 20, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • jschneier62

      The missiles are accurate to within 10 feet +/- of their targets. They have the capabilities to hover over their target before going in.
      I hope your sister and her family stays safe. 🙂

      March 20, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. James

    That's a huge statement.

    March 20, 2011 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Noem

    The only way this conflict will end is when one of the Tomahawk missles takes a direct hit on Mommar and his sons. Then the Libyan people will feel safe and possibly a new democracy will emerge. Pray to "God" "Allah" "Buddah" or whomever you call your spiritual leader that this is a new nation in its infancy and will prosper along with its people. May Gaddafi burn in hell for at least 5,000 years and without his 57 promised virginis.

    March 20, 2011 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. MarkPA

    what a convenient distraction from the internal struggle in the US, Britain and France with poverty, joblessness, etc...
    Could a more opportune moment have been taken to distract the sheep with cool bombs, big flames and neat jets?

    March 20, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. Norm


    March 20, 2011 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. beigesky

    dreamy wonderful superiority complex need to wake up? your country bombed Serbia Iraq Vietnam etc. now the turn of Libya. Not troubled in your cosy. homes? have sorted out your internal problems? how about the world 'coming to help' and drop a series of bombs on.. YOUR bases..for your leaders to think quicker and be more efficient

    regards from Moscow, Russia

    March 20, 2011 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
    • life

      naa would never happen to us but you can keep dreaming

      March 20, 2011 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • jschneier62

      beigesky....don't be so sanctimonious. If you know anything about what happened regarding the ethnic war in Kosovo, Yugoslavia you wouldn't stick your nose so far up in the air. If you recall, in response to the armed conflict between Serbs and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) the Contact Group (U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and RUSSIA) demanded a cease-fire, the unconditional withdrawal of Serbian forces, the return of refugees, and unlimited access for international monitors. And Milosevic responded just like Gaddafi is doing. He continued his killing; the U.N. Security Council tried to negotiate but failed. So NATO responded with an 11-week bombing campaign. Milosevic died in prison awaiting the verdict on war crime charges. Gaddafi should be so lucky.
      As far as the rest of your hate.....I'm sorry you live where you live and Americans live where they live. Don't be mad at them because they live in cozy homes (they have their homeless too) and you apparently hate where you live. That's like a skunk hating a flower because it smells better. It isn't the flowers fault, that's just the way things ended up. No reason to hate. But should you decide to, have a valid reason/cause to hate for. Have a nice day. 🙂

      March 20, 2011 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jeffy

    U right there Bro, We UA's ought to step in and take control of ALL these other countrys and make them like us. Free and loving

    March 20, 2011 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. Angelika Irene Bertrand

    I think its cool that this time, we are not the only once that made this decission. I feel appaled by my german government for not wanting to assist. My German government are really idiots for not pulling on the same strang!

    March 20, 2011 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jedi

    @ Mark

    We need to find new resources rather than depending on these people( who hate the free world ) for oil. There's need to fund research of new energy source than relying on these Muslim countries for oil in the long term since they are spreading american and anti-semitic propaganda in their countries which also U.S. allies within the Muslim nations (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Malaysia, Brunei, Oman and Kuwait).

    BTW I agree with the fact that we should find ways to root out these Islamo Fascist/Islamist ideology to prevent the next generation of muslims from this influence. Unfortunately , majority of Muslim today wants to be govern by Sharia Law since they perceive religion play major role in their life and politics and there's few Muslim reformers like Irshad Manji, Palaazi , and Stephen Schwartz who challenge Islamist ideals.

    March 20, 2011 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jedi

    @ Mark

    The US government and EU needs to fund the research to get new energy source than depending on oils from Muslim Nations who hate the free world. US need to stop relying on these so-called Muslim Allies (Bahrain , Saudi, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, Brunei, Kuwait and UAE) who's spreading anti-american and antisemitic propaganda in their backyard. Who needs these people. BTW i agreed that we should also focus on rooting out Islamo fascist/ Islamist ideologies to prevent the next generation of Muslims from this influence. Unfortunately the number of Muslim reformer are too small to challenge the mass of the Muslim world who wants to be governed by Sharia

    March 20, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. life

    well its too late for Kaddafi we are just going to start tearing down all of there military then finaly take him out, capture or whatever so then Libya will eventually have to rebuild there defense and any other structures that were destroyed. which means they will need loans which then means they will be in debt which then means the banks will have control of power lol

    March 20, 2011 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    How the fuk can the US afford this? Wheres the money coming from? Oh that's right YOUR kids will be paying it back

    March 20, 2011 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. VERY-SAD

    CHRISTOPHER WARREN is gone. He is a remarkable American I deeply admire. I think there are only few good Americans like him left in the US government right now. Jimmy Carter was one of the most PEACEFUL AND GREATEST US Presidents I ever know, a former USA PRES. went to SUDAN just to monitor the election was a very dangerous thing to do considering his stature. Yet, he set aside those DANGER just maybe HE WANTS to restore USA FACE around the globe FACE. All his Successors had sinked in the AMERICAN LIBERTY, now US falls under RUSSIAN category or even worse. I doubt if there is any REPUBLICANS(war mongers, words to utter on their wickedness) can duplicate (JIMMY CARTER) SUCH VERY KIND DEED. I wonder, if GOERG B. can go to KIM JONG IL'S country too, to save someones liberty just like B. Clinton. The REPUBLICAN are a far-cry Hypocrite. This time they succeeded in pushing OBAMA to make war and kill innocent Libyans which is not supposed to be . I beleive that the majority of Americans havn't loss its good senses and perhaps are not willing participants of THIS EVIL ADVENTURE against the majority of the LIBYANS. Please reflect and STOP attacking LIBYA, what is going on in Iraq, much lost of lives (innocent SOLDIERS ON BOTH SIDE, Iraquis).The whole world economies are drawning because of these meaningless and useless wars. Iraq will never be restored again, we will never see all those ANCIENTS ARTICRAFTS that once was the source of CIVILIZATION n pride of the Iraquis. Everything is gone and keep draining both sides. As I can perceive what lies ahead for AMERICA is not only the GREATER END AND DESTRUCTION FOR USA but for all us in this world. You have to fend the majority of AMERICAN who are in desperate need of your FINANCIAL SALVATION, don't use to money to kill innocent Libyan, waht you are doing is increasing anger among all nations. USA Must pursue trust among those allies whom you hv lost during the Reagan, Bushes government, whose government pursued wars, intervene in other nations affairs with their great lies and wicked selfish intentions. Why USA NOT pursuing these two TYRANT AND STUBBORN IRAN(a real terrorist along with alqueda), N.KOREA who are the true enemies of Peace and Liberty. There's no logic intervening by military force with the Kdaffi's forces. Although, Kadaffi has been leader in Libya for 42 years, he provided good food, peaceful haven for the majority of the Libyan people. As we witness, the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS foreign migrant workers leaving Libya is a true indications LIBYAN GOVERNMENT IS PURSUING A DEMOCRATIC way of life, as it allows foreigners to till its land for a fee. In a country without democracy like IRAN AND N.KOREA. As the world knows, these two countries doors are shut for any foreigners, allowing not any one to peer at their windows just a few seconds(rmember those two journalist whom Clinton saved from isolation in NKorea).

    March 20, 2011 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Chitfaced

    I can't tell if the U.S. is trying for a Cultural Victory or a Domination Victory.

    March 20, 2011 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. free2pongrat

    Traducere din Română în Engleză
    I do not know if he has to get new people commenting here
    but the sight of God our father just what we deserve
    Bible says, not Allah, Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, etc..
    "With the merciful goodness behave after him with his evil after evil, rotten at its corruption after"
    for Gd. father can not be our religion
    I know the pain those words, but God's word can not pass
    "by that gave them their damn minds allow us to do things, "says Romans [bible] amen

    March 20, 2011 at 4:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Oliver

      Why are people here complaining about not only US involvement but the UN involvement when they asked both to step in? Why are people being two faced after action is taken. The cries for a no fly zone were answered and no one should question why the US and UN coalition stepped in. This is NOT a conflict based around oil , there is a movement through a large part of the middle east right now covering many countries. The difference with Libya is that the government was killing protesters willingly. Human rights were being violated and the UN recognized this. If you need to see this with your own eyes just go on you tube or any video blogs coming out of the green zone. You will see the atrocities and mass slaughters happening as we speak. What happens when no one decides to act and help the helpless? Who is really willing to watch innocents die by the thousands when you have the power to make a difference? A coward is someone who is unwilling to stand up for the little guy and just watches as the little guy is beaten around.

      March 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
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