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. oneSTARman

    I know that the UN is just Symbolic – but as a way to codify it into International law – Doesn't it make sense that: Rule 1. Any time ANY GOVERNMENT be it China or Israel or The USA or Libya – sends TANKS into its own cities against its own people – 1st you take out the Tanks – No Warning No Waiting – 2nd you Take out the Illegitimate Regime.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ProperVillain

    What kind of world do we live in where France is the country taking care of business instead of us? Great job Oblahma! At least someone is taking action. Viva La France!

    March 19, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • oneSTARman

      I am sure that you are not so stupid that you do not know that the US cannot be seen as initiating this move. The ARAB LEAGUE had to agree to it before the US could bring its "Unique Assets" into position and allow the French and British to fly safely and hit the right targets.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • ProperVillain

      Yeah, I had a feeling it had something to do with our appearance internationally. My point is it was kind of sad to see Oblahma do nothing but blather and threaten while other nations did the heavy lifting and took care of business. Although, it is nice to see the Arab League finally taking responsibility for the messes in their own region...

      March 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Uncle Zeus

      @Proper - I'm willing to bet you were strongly against eliminating the Bush Tax cuts that make it impossible to afford another war.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. networks

    This place is going to get HOT. 20 jets now over the area.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joseph McCarthy

    As much as I hate that Tea Party lingo,I'll say how I feel right now in French; Cet Sarkozi n'est qu'un salaud a qui la vie humaine ne vaut rien! Il lui meme ne vaut rien!!! Et sa femme n'est qu'une salope!!! J'en suis desole,mais ceci est ce que J'eprouve maintenant!!! Est-ce que j'ai oublie a mentioner le fait qu'il soit meutrier sans remords???

    March 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      Merci beaucoup,Joseph. Vous avez bien raison en ecriavant la declaration dessus!

      March 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lgouda

    All I can say, The way the US handled this is so far is smart

    March 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Arvid K

    I am investing in potatoes!
    As all the Yanks will be eating "French fries" again.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • oneSTARman

      That's MR. FREEDOM FRIES to YOU – Britt ;p

      March 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. AmericanPiex

    all i see is the French with oil interest along with every other country desperately seeking a way to secure their oil supply.

    this has nothing to do with humanitarian efforts. Every war is driven by money and not for the support or spread of any other ideology.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. L64

    I've been wondering about Quadaffi's sons. Do they truly support him or do they realize he is a madman and do and say what they do in fear of their own lives?

    March 19, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. KAO

    The complete and utter nonsense that I see posted here, has risen to new highs. Most of you posting here, have deeper issues with our president than the idiocy that you write here. Be it race, politics or whatever it is, I suspect none of you would be as forth coming in front of a camera. The word we use to describe people of your ilk, is cowardly.

    The US did exactly the right thing with Libya, build a coalition and not re-enact another episode of "cowboy George's" stupidity. As a US Navy veteran, who has actually been to many a war zone, what most of you suggest here is FOOLISH.

    1). The US unilaterally invading yet another Arab country, is about as stupid a suggestion as there could be.
    2). Okay, we go into Libya and smash Col. Quacky, are we prepared to do the same for Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Syria & Jordan. If not, there is no point to the US invading Libya.
    3). Think your homeland security budget is high now? Invade another Arab country, and see what happens.
    4). We are already embroiled in two wars that we can't pay for, and you're pushing for a third?
    5). As someone who spent time in this region of they world, they ALL (some with goof reason) hate the US. That is, until their butts get caught in a vice.

    My sympathy is with the Libyans, they however must understand that this is their fight. The UN, not the US is who should come to their defense.

    Lastly, separate your hatred of Obama, from reality of the situation, and you might be able to look at it differently.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikeybronx

      The fact that you have military background suggests you know that this can be a swift decisive military action. We use sophisticated tracking resources and mapout the terrain and allow the NATO allies to strike with pinpont accuracy. Any outsider who does not think that Gaddafi has promised monetary rewards to anyone supporting his efforts is quite naive. He has mercenaries and a paid group of hoods acting as if they are the people of Libya. Unfortunately this is a defining moment in the region and only one outcome is acceptable. We covertly supply the civilians and allow them to fight for their freedoms without US occupation and we avoid further involvement. We gave Noriega and Bin Laden guns and support so what makes this any different ? This is the unfortunate albatrose we have around our neck but if we want democracy to flourish we need to step up to the plate and defend the process. With or without Obama in office we would still have to take this stance because its a position that effects us here on american soil. Peace to you brother.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • devinjgray

      I appreciate your post. You are well-informed and make excellent points. I read that the cost to impose the no-fly zone will be $300 millon per week. There are no good options- intervene, at high cost and low probability of optimal outcome, or do nothing, and allow the slaughter of thousands and persistence of a brutal dictator. While I have decided that I believe intervention was the right choice, I respect your opinion too.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      The Lybians know all too well this is their fight. As all that blood and pain in the photos show us, they have put their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors on the line, -– And just like another group who did that about 1776 - the French came to their aid.

      March 20, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. richard

    i think the prez did good to not jump feet first in this little qwagmire ,our troops deserve better,i think the prez was weighing the options ,patiently waiting on all the intel he could gather,i think ,let the un go in first so it cant be said, oops they did it again,im all for supporting the U N,but i dont want to seem like a redneck going in a bar and cleaning house,because you know we can

    March 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      How can someone who has never had real job make a clear decision? God help us.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Burt

    I was listening to Mr. Fawaz Guergues. I am sorry to say that this man has no grasp of the situation. Let us all remember that Qaddafi does not have friends in any part of the world. Any friends he has are paid friends. Yes, Qaddafi has weapons, but these are now being displayed over the desert. They will be picked-up by the fighter jets. It is for the free Libyans to persue the soon to be weakened Qaddafi forces, as per their request. If CNN is paying Mr. Guergues to appear, CNN is wasting their money.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ed Lawler

    Why don't we sit this one out. Let the Arabs and Europe screw this one up. I have an idea. Phase our troops out of of our other two wars, and get them involved in securing our boarders. Tell the rest of the world to get bent, and start taking care of Americans. Those that like us will go along the rest will have to live with it.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Cool idea Ed, someone should listen to you.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Me

    Some of you people posting are amazing. If it's not Republicans vs Democrats it's Caucasian vs everyone else.. Now Cheney's war machine again? Blah blah. Every military action gets compared with vietnam, but most people don't even know why Vietnam was such a bad decision to fight. Kennedy was a moron. His true enemies were China and Ussr, but he was too cowardly to go after them. Lybia is not the same as Iraq or Afghanistan. If you think in racial terms without examining all the moving pieces then you will always see that.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. future navy sailor

    go get em france knock the fries out of them

    March 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Arvid K

    How is Michelle ever going to get your weight under control if you are all back on the "French" fries?
    Damn Obama can he not do one thing correct?
    Maybe that should be Freedom fries.
    You yanks are so confusing.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      She'll swell up like a tick on a cow ass.

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