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. Me

    No big war is coming. Really? Lol China needs us more than we need them same for Russia although Russia to a lesser extent as they are a pretty self sufficient country. China wants nothing to do with affairs that would hurt its economic progress. Not gonna happen. Nobody cares about Libya that's why certain UN countries abstained from voting. They don't give a hoot.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. Kingston

    @Boney, the Cote DIvoire got no oil. Gadhafi didn't want share the oil. Whereas, Qatar, Saudi, and Yemen are sharing with us.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Boney

      Yes, well known facts. But to maintain world wide image you need to show some charisma and devotion at least behind the camera/mic. Instead what we show is a weak America that nobody cares what we say/think/want. This the Big Picture left from the White House.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. Cesar

    I hope that the pro-Qadaffi forces take Benghazi soon. Maybe that will stop that civil war before the cursed NATO forces can intervene there. But I'm afraid that that's just wishful thinking on my part.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Boney

      NATO should not be involved. NATO is a security pact. Non of the participating members security is endangered.
      The opposition forces are about done in Libya. To late! Now we can impose ineffective No-flight zone for years to come, so we have another excuse for the deficit.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • devinjgray

      It was the United Nations that passed the resolution, not NATO. The United Nations security council has five permanent members (Russia, China, Great Britain, France, and the United States) that each have veto power. The other seats on the security council are held on a rotating basis by the various 192 nations that make up the United Nations. As you can see, this decision was made by the world community, and was only possible because China and Russia chose not to veto the resolution. I don't know the reason for your disdain for NATO (I am interested, please reply and tell me), but that orgaization willl not be involved in enforcing this resolution.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. MIchael B


    March 19, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. logan

    Lock and load.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. Keeeshawrn

    yay the muslims have someone new to hate!

    March 19, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. akal575

    Way to go France, at least they have some balls

    March 19, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  8. C

    What a shame. So if in any country 100,000 people gather get some heavy weapons from somewhere (it shows you that this is all other powers work, normal people do not have heavy artillery, or airplanes...) and say they want to get rid of the government we should all support them. Tomorrow there might be 100,000 in France who want to get rid of the the losers you have there, then what

    March 19, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • logan

      You clearly have no clue about the history or the current events in the area

      March 19, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • C

      Really thats funny. All these years who supported Kaddafi? France and 2 years ago after the riots France blamed Libya for supporting them. 2 years ago France attacked civilians, now the say in Binghazi the civilians are being attacked, did you the plane crashing down that belong the terrorists, how can a civilian fly a war plane?

      March 19, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • C

      When the extremist Muslims take control of Libya just like Egypt you guys will see what the next step is going to be. Do you guys even knwo what this is all about? Why suddenly after 40 years so called "CIVILIANS" started attacking government. All these years Kaddafi prevented the religion to have any power, his kids are all educated in England and USA and the country started opening up even more to west and now suddenly see what happens...

      March 19, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • krashundburn

      If you will recall, early in the game Cacadaffy was bombing ammo depots. That was so the rebels could not get their hands on the good stuff.

      Recall also that military pilots defected. Those are the people currently flying rebel jets – not "civilians".

      March 19, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • C

      so it makes them legitimate? Why would they need the weapons, when supporters of some is killed it is war of freedom, the other way is called barbaric??? How do you categorize a handful of terrorists attacking a government as looking for democracy? So when some people walk out steal some weapons and attack the government everybody should walk away. Thats some funny thinking.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • devinjgray

      In France the people vote their leaders into power, and they vote them out of power. That is what gives the government legitimacy. Established democracies frequently have very large protests. In Washington DC, it is common for several hundred thousand people to join together and protest for a common cause. The Libyan uprising took up arms because the people have no other way to get rid of their leader- he holds power through force, and has slaughtered untold numbers of people who dare to oppose him. In my personal opinion, the reason this armed uprising is legitimate is because the people have no way to affect change in government without taking up arms. It is misleading for you to say this is only the desire of 100,000 people. There is no way to know how many people in Libya want a different leader. Yes, it is a concern that extremists may seize power and be just as bad, or worse, than Qaddafi. We can not know with any certainty what will happen if Qaddafi is overthrown. What is certainly true is that Qaddafi will crush this rebellion and exact revenge by slaughtering an untold number of people if the world community does not intervene.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • C

      devinjgray: very well said but my fear is basically imposing another dictator to replace an existing one. Look all the previous ones. Which country or situation is better, NONE
      Also when you talk about voting and polls, what happens when you vote someone and then people realize that it is not what you voted on??
      Also the leaders say "people of Libya asked for help" I really would like to get the phone number to call when I need help. France has been talking to these terorosts for a while, how do they contact each other??? Come on guys everybody with a little brain knows what is the plan

      March 19, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kristal

    no peoples's of the World should have to live in captivity wheter it mental or physical people have their own minds why should a tyrant tell any1 what to do all any1 wants is freedom thats what live is about doing as You please within the law' taking tyrants to task is the proper way to go we are all red blooded its just are skin that is different other then that we are all the same' I toast freedom for the world so it has been said so it must be done unite World freedom awaits for every1

    March 19, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • C

      Saudi Arabia, Quatar, Emirates, Brunei, China......How come no word on the people's freedom? Those people do not count??

      March 19, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. ynmsid

    wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait..........................oops too late

    March 19, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. han

    If gadhafi wants to end it now is the time, though NATO seems to be pushing it's authority. It would be better if other Arabic nations got involved instead of NATO ...

    March 19, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • devinjgray

      Again, this resolution came from the United Nations, the world body of 192 nations; not NATO. The league of Arab nations was strongly pushing for the United Nations to intervene, and they support this resolution and the use of military force against Qaddafi.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • C

      You know why League of ARab nations want action; so they can do wahtever they want and nobody says anything to them. Thats the deal they are getting in return of attacking Libya who is not governed by Islamic laws contrary to most Arabic countries

      March 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kristal

    c your a complete moron' read and understand you ignorant unintelligent idiot

    March 19, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • C

      Wow you really have class and intelligence. Nicely proven

      March 19, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  13. MIchael B


    March 19, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. Just explain something here please

    Can somebody explain to me why does france want in on this real bad? If I recall correctly they didn't want to help the americans fight in iraq, but now it seems they're really pumped up about this one and taking the leading role? What is the difference? Why are they oscillating so bad? And why does it seem that they are the ones that want to fight quadaffi's regime more than the other members of the UN? Are there many french civilians living in Libya or something?

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

      Good question.

      It's likely not because of oil. Though Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, only 6% of its oil exports go to France. France's main sources of oil are Saudi Arabia, the UK, Norway, and Russia.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. MarineMom55

    I see proceeding with caution as the only way to deal with this situation. It is sad what is going on in Libya, but any intervention will result in loss of life on all sides. For those who are so anxious to go to war, how do you propose we identify the difference between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" in an air strike? How many more American military lives are you willing to sacrifice? This definitely needs to be an International effort.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      I disagree with you,MarineMom55. The only decent thing we can do is to stay out altogether and let things in Libya take their course. These warmongering fools here irritate me to no end!!!

      March 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
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