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. PbNYC

    What a joke! The allies inactions are the main reason government soldiers are inside Benghazi and killing everyone that doesn't agree with Gadhaffi!

    March 19, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. MIchael B


    March 19, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. Helen Tun

    CNN news reporter just lied on international tv that the fighter plane was brought down by shelling from Pro-Ghadafi in Benghazi.... the plane was brought down by the rebels' own gun. It was a friendly fire.... to all that speak in this blog, please try to get into foreign news to read the other side of the story.

    The no-fly zone is to protect the Libyan people.... pro and anti Ghadafi.... when did the UN become a rebel fighter????

    And to those who said China is looking for war.... the ship was to carry out Chinese workers, get your facts right! Didn't other nations do the same in Egypt???? Anyone of the 5 countries who did not vote to go to war has their own veto power.... so, don't just laid into China like that.

    By the way, have you seen some reports from French and US reporters questioning why only Libyan democratic forces get these special treatment when other middle eastern nations can kill and hurt their own citizens with the US Britain and France selling more arms to the government?

    Looks like the Democrats are just a war mongering as the Republicans!

    March 19, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua

      Sad to say but yes.

      March 19, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. HopeFaithLove

    May the people of Libya find total lasting freedom soon!

    March 19, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dr. Majnoon

    Gadhafi is the one man responsible for many innocent killings not only presently but throught his 42 years dictatorship. From disco killing in Germany and Scotland Pan Am blow up. How can you hypocrits sit back and say, it is not our fight? The SOB is so scared and as soon as the US says we are coming, he will stop. So what if our planes fly over and bomb his installations and his rat holes? He is a murderer and sleeping with the devil has consequences.
    How can you criticize Obama? Whatever he decides, someone gets upset. He is doing what is right for the USA and also the freedom fighters in Libya. Had he done anything sooner, all of those Republican pimps such as Rush, Sean Hannity and the Republians in the Senate would have wet their pants from screaming fouls.
    Grow up and let peace spread all over the world. This is another way to fight terrorisms.
    God bless the USA and our soldiers.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. J.Ford

    Americans, please think. What you all here from the news is half of the story, if that. CNN or Fox News doesn't sit in on anything, so they know very little. Our government makes better decisions everyday. President Obama cannot make decisions half-hearted. Our military leaders sit with him and they all choose what is best. What we all need to do is stop talking like we know everything and support our nations leadership.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. C

    Armed with pump-action shotguns, sidearms and stun grenades the officers look like they belong in a war zone.
    In fact they are elite French policemen who were deployed to the historic centre of Lyon yesterday to deal with rioting students.
    President Nicolas Sarkozy took the extreme measure in the face of growing protests

    Deploying them on the streets was a tactical decision deemed necessary because of the acts of violence and vandalism aimed at the community,’ said an interior ministry spokesman


    March 19, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • C

      So I guess someone has to invade France to protect civilians, they want government to go but Sarkozy using brute power to stop FREEDOM FIGHTERS

      March 19, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • devinjgray

      Please read my reply to your previous post. In France, if these people are unhappy with the government, they can protest, they can rally and explain why they are unhappy and convince others of their position. They can organize online and build support for their cause. And they have the power to vote, and to change the government without the use of military force. This is why violent uprising is legitimate in Libya, but not in France. Please read and learn about the group in France that is rioting, the history of the problem and why they are unhappy. It's too much information for me to put in a post.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • C

      I know the info., and history. When a government is elected 99% of the times they do not have the backing of the majority of the people living in the country. So the others protest, you use force on them and then they start using a force in return you retaliate.......So the easy way out is to say wait 4-5 years for the election meanwhile these groups are one by one assimilated or pressured or bought out. If foreign forces do not give credit and encourage people nobody in their mind will bear arms and attack a dictator. People are naive to think that this was a freedom movement, and it was innocent then suddenly they found airplanes, heavy artillery and start attacking the government forces. Meanwhile France and Italy has been talking and negotiating with these terorists. Who calls who and how, and who is the leader of the movement?

      March 19, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • C

      Just so you learn: Supposed leader of Egypt movement; El Baredei. Who was the leader of UN Nuclear watchdog who was numerous times blamed by Iraq being a spy and lying about the nuclear weapons and factories. The same happened with Iran. At the end US invades Iraq with the illusion of nuclear weapons, civilians die, no WMD. El Baredie gets his reward....

      March 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • devinjgray

      You are making baseless claims and telling conspiracy theory. The claim that 99% of Americans do not support their government is simply false, as routine polls can show. I will stop replying to your posts. I was trying to give factual information. You don't seem to have any interest in that.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • C

      wow your english or understanding needs some development. I said 99% of the times the MAJORITY, whihc means when your approval rating is 49% of all the people not people who voted or the population. I thought you had something going for you but i guess nothing is like as they seem to be

      March 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • C

      just so you learn some FACTS thay you assume to know or talk about vsitthis page:

      March 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Linda

    Why is everyone so down on Qaddafi. Libya belongs to him. He needs to hurry up and slap down those knot heads so he can turn the oil spigot back on. It is not any of our business how others run their countries.. Contrary to popular belief you are not your bother's keeper. We sure do not want some other country/organization coming into the US to tell us how to run our country (such as some UN idiot).. Look how we lost great Cuban items when we got our nose out of joint over Castro. We may still be the world police but we need to pick the battles that are win win.

    I think it will be funny if France and UK, who seem hellbent to rush in there, have all of their planes shot down. I have heard Libya seems to have some of the best air defenses money can buy. Then they will come crying to US to do something about that meanie in Libya.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • devinjgray

      Oh my, are you being serious? You believe that the country of Libya and the 6 million people in it belong to one man? You are wishing for harm to young men and women sent to protect a civilian population from a ruthless dictator? In the United States the people choose their leaders, and not everyone is happy with the outcome of elections but the democratic process is respected. In Libya, civilians are crying out to the world community for help, because a ruthless dictator who has terrorized his people and the world for several decades has promised revenge and massacre to those who oppose him. Untold numbers of innocent civilians will be slaughtered in the process. Please think about what you wrote. It's incredibly cruel.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LoĂŻc.B

    FRENCH AIR FORCE Rafale in Action!!!

    March 19, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ethereal warrior

    Gadhaffi is obviously a classic psychopath. That he can tell such barefaced lies with such conviction, it is obvious that he believes them himself – a sure sign of a psychopath. His actions against his own people are those of a madman. Burning people alive, burying them in underground prisons, and throwing tantrums when he doesn't get his own way are not the actions of a sane man. Do we really want an unstable mad dictator in charge of a government, especially in that part of the world?

    March 19, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • C

      where were we 40 years. Now his kids are taking charge and they are well influenced by US and English. You can see their lives/friends and ideas. Tjis is only destroying some good future so the country will be under the control of another dictator handpicked by someone rather than Gaddafi's kids. Look at the dictatorships in Iraq and Afganistan, anything changed after the killing of 100,000s of civilians. We blame the dictators killing innocent but what did we do? Killed more than they could and would in their entire life and what did we achieve: ABIG NOTHING

      March 19, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  11. gop hate america

    why is it that we can always seem to afford wars

    March 19, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. GunsAmmo

    We all need to make sure we have everything needed to protect ourselves.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Teddy Grimstad

    Let Europe handle the situation, we´ve lost enough of men over the years. But for sure Gadaffi needs to respect all international laws like all other leaders related to the UN

    March 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. nothingmoretosay

    57% polled by cnn said support the war. i'd love to hear the reasons, and compare them with the ones you supoorted war in iraq, korea, and vetnem. are they any difference? and what all they ended up? why people never learn?

    March 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    Why is no one in the media pointing out the French hypocrisy here? When Saddam Husein was putting down the rebellion in Iraq with genocide and chemical weapons, where were the French? Not only were they nowhere to be found, but when the U.S. finally decided to help the Shiite and Kurd population (the majority) overthrow Saddam, the French vehemently opposed our action and withheld any support. This may sound cynical, but it's the stripped down reality...countries act ONLY when it is in their own interest, whether that interest be economic or physical security, both being just as vital to maintaining their survival. If you don't believe me, check out the world map at that shows countries currently at risk of genocide, politicide, and mass atrocities, take into account what is happening at this very moment in Bahrain, and tell me why France and many other countries in the UN are intervening in Libya and nowhere else, look at the meteoric rise in the price of oil since the Libyan rebellion began, and tell me the people of Libya matter to the French, or is it really Libyan oil that does?

    March 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • oneSTARman

      its OIL...Libya has Oil Iraq had Oil and even better..Halliburton could get HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS for the G ood O lde P eople who also brought you the Great Recession and gave all our Home Mortgages to Goldman Sachs – who NOW OWN all you SERFS.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
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