Libya live blog: U.S., Britain fired 159 Tomahawks since Saturday
A Libyan rebel ducks for cover behind a sand dune during a failed attempt to take the town of Ajdabiya from Gadhafi's forces Monday.
March 21st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Libya live blog: U.S., Britain fired 159 Tomahawks since Saturday

The latest developments on the situation in Libya, where coalition forces launched a series of coordinated airstrikes on Saturday after they were convinced Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was not adhering to a cease-fire mandated by the United Nations. 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.

[11 p.m. Monday ET, 5 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] The United States fired 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya in the past 12 hours, a military spokeswoman said early Tuesday morning from the Mediterranean Sea. A total of 159 Tomahawks have been fired by the United States and the United Kingdom since an international coalition started Operation Odyssey Dawn on Saturday.

Cmdr. Monica Rousselow, a spokeswoman for the task force, also said one of the three U.S. submarines that participated at the beginning of the operation has since departed the area. She declined to say which submarine.

[8:59 p.m. Monday ET, 2:59 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] In a rare public spat, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev criticized his political mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, for Putin's comments over the use of force against Libya.

Putin on Monday said the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya was "obviously incomplete and flawed." He added that it "resembles a medieval appeal for a crusade in which somebody calls upon somebody to go to a certain place and liberate it."

A few hours later Medvedev weighed in, scolding Putin's comments, without using the prime minister's name. "It is absolutely inexcusable to use expressions that, in effect, lead to a clash of civilizations - such as 'crusades,' and so on. That is unacceptable," Medvedev said.

[8:10 p.m. Monday ET, 2:10 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] CNN correspondent Nic Robertson has rejected a Fox News report that he and other journalists were used as human shields by the Libyan government to prevent a missile attack on Gadhafi's compound.

Libyan government officials brought CNN and other news crews to the compound to view a building that was damaged late Sunday in a coalition air strike. The Fox story, posted on the outlet's website Monday, says the journalists' presence forced a British aircraft to call off firing seven missiles at the area that already had been hit.

Robertson, who was part of the CNN crew cited in the Fox story, called the rival network's report "outrageous and hypocritical." Robertson said a Fox staffer was among the journalists on the trip - which was not mentioned in the Fox report - and that the journalists in the group were hurried through their trip by their minders.

"If they wanted to use us as human shields ... they would have kept us there longer," Robertson said. "That's not what happened."

[7:49 p.m. Monday ET, 1:49 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] More U.S. legislators are expressing concern about the country's involvement in the coalition military operation in Libya. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, says the president is "stirring up a lot of controversy."

"We're not coordinating with the rebels. Are we going to leave them surrounded, and with the mercy of Gadhafi? I've never seen anything so confused in my life," Norton told CNN.

On the right, lawmakers are demanding the president better explain the U.S. mission in Libya to Congress and the American people, CNN's Dana Bash reports.

"The president should come home and call the Congress back into session and to make his case. He needs to define what the United States' vital mission is here, what is our vital interest, how does he see the potential cost unfolding here," said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Michigan, in an interview from her home district.

[6:32 p.m. Monday ET, 12:32 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] Frances Fragos Townsend, once President George W. Bush's chief counterterrorism adviser and now a CNN commentator, recalls her 2007 visit to the Gadhafi compound in Tripoli where coalition missiles heavily damaged a building on Sunday.

[5:25 p.m. Monday ET, 11:25 p.m. Monday in Libya] CNN's Ed Henry offers a deeper look at U.S. President Barack Obama's comments in Chile regarding Libya on Monday afternoon: Obama repeated Monday that Moammar Gadhafi "needs to go," but he acknowledged the Libyan dictator may remain in power for some time because the allied military mission in North Africa has a more narrow U.N. mandate of just protecting civilians.

Still, Obama noted: "I also have stated that it is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go." Obama said he's still hopeful that other "tools" the administration has used, such as freezing billions in Libyan assets, will eventually help the Libyan people push Gadhafi out.

[5:10 p.m. Monday ET, 11:10 p.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has expressed "apprehension" and "concerns" about U.S. involvement in Libya.

"Specifically, Congress needs to understand the risk involved to the lives of our service members, how long the administration anticipates U.S. involvement, the impact of our involvement on our other national security priorities like Afghanistan, and what the ultimate objective is," Begich, a member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Monday.

[4:52 p.m. Monday ET, 10:52 p.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, who already had expressed concern about U.S. and allied air strikes in Libya, has amped up his criticism of the operation, saying "there are no guidelines for success."

In an interview set to air Monday on CNN's "John King, USA," Lugar, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the operation has not been clearly defined.

"I do not understand the mission because as far as I can tell in the United States there is no mission and there are no guidelines for success," Lugar, R-Indiana, told CNN's John King. "That may well be true with our allies although conceivably they may have other missions in mind and simply try to get Security Council clearance to proceed."

[4:46 p.m. Monday ET, 10:46 p.m. Monday in Libya] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's momentum has stopped and rebels have been able to hold onto areas that government forces had been poised to capture just a few days ago, a U.S. official said Monday.

However, an opposition spokesman said Gadhafi's forces have continued to fight in Mistata, the last city in western Libya under rebel control, despite the Libyan government's declaration of a cease-fire. "There is no cease-fire in Misrata," said Mohamed, who would not divulge his last name out of concern for his safety. "The destruction is unimaginable."

Late Monday, state television reported that Misrata was firmly in the hands of Libyan government forces.

[4:42 p.m. Monday ET, 10:42 p.m. Monday in Libya] The U.N. Security Council has decided to not take action Monday on Libya's request for an emergency meeting on attacks. Discussions will likely continue at a planned Thursday briefing on Libya by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Libya's government is pressing for an end to what it calls an aggression against the country.

[4:08 p.m. Monday ET, 10:08 p.m. Monday in Libya] Oil prices surged in electronic trading Monday after coalition forces launched an attack on Libyan military targets over the weekend, CNNMoney reports.

The benchmark U.S. contract, West Texas Intermediate, gained as much as $2.28 to top $103 a barrel for April delivery. It later dropped back to settle $1.26 higher at $102.33 a barrel. The more active May contract jumped $1.24 to settle at $103.09 a barrel. It briefly topped $104 in earlier trading.

[3:47 p.m. Monday ET, 9:47 p.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. President Barack Obama is getting heat from a member of his own party regarding the military action in Libya.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the seven-term liberal Democrat from Ohio who has twice run for the White House, says Obama committed an "impeachable offense" in deciding to authorize U.S. airstrikes over Libya Saturday without the consent of Congress.

"President Obama moved forward without Congress approving. He didn't have Congressional authorization, he has gone against the Constitution, and that's got to be said," Kucinich told the web site Raw Story on Monday. "It's not even disputable, this isn't even a close question."

[3:33 p.m. Monday ET, 9:33 p.m. Monday in Libya] Below is a video of CNN's Nic Robertson, reporting on explosions that he heard this afternoon in Tripoli. He says he heard at least two blasts, apparently coming from the direction of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound. Antu-aircraft gunfire followed the blast.

The new explosions come a day after a building in Gadhafi's compound was damaged in an apparent coalition airstrike.

[3:17 p.m. Monday ET, 9:17 p.m. Monday in Libya] Explosions were heard minutes ago in Tripoli, CNN's Nic Robertson reported.

Robertston, who is in Tripoli, said anti-aircraft gunfire has followed the explosions.

[3:08 p.m. Monday ET, 9:08 p.m. Monday in Libya] President Barack Obama, addressing the situation in Libya during a trip to Chile, told reporters that a condition for the United States to step back from leading the Libyan military mission is the disabling of Libya's air defenses. This is so that NATO allies and other coalition partners can effectively enforce a no-fly zone, he said.

"We anticipate this transition to take place in a matter of days, not weeks," Obama said.

[2:58 p.m. Monday ET, 8:58 p.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. President Barack Obama, addressing the situation in Libya during a trip to Chile, said that "it is U.S. policy" that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi "has to go."

Obama said the core principle of the military mission is that the international community "can't stand by with empty words" in the face of an imminent humanitarian catastrophe such as a leader using military force against his own people.

[1:45 p.m. Monday ET, 7:45 p.m. Monday in Libya] Four New York Times journalists who were reported captured by pro-government forces in Libya last week have been released and have arrived safely in Tunisia, the paper's Executive Editor Bill Keller said Monday in an e-mail obtained by CNN. "We're particularly indebted to the Government of Turkey, which intervened on our behalf to oversee the release of our journalists and bring them to Tunisia," Keller said in the e-mail which was sent to New York Times staff. "We were also assisted throughout the week by diplomats from the United States and United Kingdom."

[12:44 p.m. Monday ET, 6:44 p.m. Monday in Libya] There is no intent to destroy the Libyan military forces, Gen. Carter Ham, a top U.S. commander said Monday, but the coalition will strike against forces that are threatening or attacking civilians, he said.

[12:30 p.m. Monday ET, 6:30 p.m. Monday in Libya] The coalition flew 70 to 80 sorties over Libya on Monday, up from 60 on Sunday, said Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command. The United States flew fewer than half of the Monday missions and about half of the Sunday sorties, Ham said.

Canadian and Belgian air force planes flew for the first time Monday. "We are hopeful that other nations will continue to join us," Ham said. "Some have made very firm offers."

[12:26 p.m. Monday ET, 6:26 p.m. Monday in Libya] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may remain the leader of Libya after the coalition mission has ended, the commander of U.S. forces said Monday.

"I could see accomplishing the military mission which has been assigned to me and the current leader would remain the current leader," Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander, U.S. Africa Command, said. "Is that ideal? I don't think anyone would say that that is ideal, but I could envision that as a possible situation - at least for the current mission that I have."

[12:19 p.m. Monday ET, 6:19 p.m. Monday in Libya] Coalition strikes not designed to kill Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, says.

[12:10 p.m. Monday ET, 6:10 p.m. Monday in Libya] There are no U.S. or coalition forces on the ground in Libya, Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, says.

[12:05 p.m. Monday ET, 6:05 p.m. Monday in Libya] Coalition mission doesn't include protecting forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said Monday.

[11:32 a.m. Monday ET, 5:32 p.m. Monday in Libya] Coalition members were still working out Monday how the ongoing of maintaining the no-fly zone over Libya would be commanded, U.S. officials said.

NATO could command the coalition's no-fly mission in Libya, but some Arab nations are hesitant to fly under a NATO banner, which has held up the move, said one official, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of negotiations.

The coalition has 10 announced partners: Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain and the United States.

[9:05 a.m. Monday ET, 3:05 p.m. Monday in Libya] The involvement of U.S. military aircraft in strikes on Libya has "plateaued," a spokesman for United States Africa Command says. The U.S. conducted missile strikes overnight, spokesman Vince Crowley said.

[8:23 a.m. Monday ET, 2:18 p.m. Monday in Libya] Four New York Times journalists who were reported captured by pro-government forces in Libya last week have been released and are in the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli, Turkey's ambassador to Libya, Levent Sahin Kaya, told CNN Monday. Read full story.

[7:18 a.m. Monday ET, 1:18 p.m. Monday in Libya] Oil prices surged more than $2 a barrel in electronic trading Monday after coalition forces launched an attack on Libyan military targets on Saturday. The benchmark U.S. contract, West Texas Intermediate, gained $2.11 to $103.18 a barrel for April delivery. The more active May contract jumped $2.21  to $104.06 a barrel.

[6:32 a.m. Monday ET, 12:32 p.m. Monday in Libya] The British Ministry of Defense said it halted a mission to attack a target in Libya because of information about civilians in the area.

"As the RAF GR4 Tornados moved into the area, further information came to light that identified a number of civilians within the intended target area," the ministry said in a statement Monday. "As a result the decision was taken not to launch weapons. This decision underlines the UK's commitment to the protection of civilians."

[6:02 a.m. Monday ET, 12:02 p.m. Monday in Libya] A witness in the Libyan city of Misrata reported "absolute destruction and carnage" by forces supporting leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday - despite the regime's recent call for a cease-fire.

"Misrata is being flattened and razed to the ground as we speak," said the man, who was not identified safety reasons. "He (Gadhafi) is using tanks and snipers to terrorize the city."

He added, "They are shooting people in the main street and on the back street."

CNN could not independently confirm reports from Misrata early Monday.

[5:57 a.m. Monday ET, 11:57 a.m. Monday in Libya] A group of supporters of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi chanted "Down with the USA" and confronted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he was leaving the Arab League buidling in Cairo on Monday, a UN spokesman said.

Spokesman Khawla Mattar said Ban was "fine" and "it was not a serious incident." "They were not chanting anti-UN slogans. They were probably just trying to send a message through the UN," he said.

[4:21 a.m. Monday ET, 10:21 a.m. Monday in Libya] The French government disputed claims of civilian deaths in Libya from recent airstrikes.

"There is no information of killed civilians recorded by the French command," French government spokesman Francois Baroin said on the French TV channel Canal+ Monday.

Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi's regime claimed that dozens of people - mostly women, children and clerics - have been killed in the international airstrikes that started Saturday.

"We must be cautious of communication campaigns and propaganda. ... This is a military operation and a communications campaign battle," Baroin said. "We have to trust what the international community is communicating."

[2:14 a.m. Monday ET, 8:14 a.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said it would be "unwise" to set specific goals about targeting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi directly during attacks.

"I think that it's important that we operate within the mandate of the U.N. Security Council resolution," Gates told reporters Sunday while on a plane to Russia. "If we start adding additional objectives, then I think we create a problem in that respect.  I also think that it is unwise to set as specific goals, things that you may or may not be able to achieve."

The Security Council resolution, which passed Thursday, allows member states "to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country ... while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory," according to the United Nations.

[12:34 a.m. Monday ET, 6:34 a.m. Monday in Libya] A coalition military official has confirmed that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound was targeted by airstrikes Sunday night. The compound was targeted, the official said, because it contains capabilities to exercise command and control over Libyan forces and the coalition goal is to degrade his military capabilities. Earlier, Western journalists, including CNN's Nic Robertson, were brought inside the compound to survey the destruction.

[10:51 p.m. Sunday ET, 4:51 a.m. Monday in Libya] An announced list of the countries participating in the military coalition: The United States, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar and Spain.

U.S. officials have said they plan to hand over operational control of the military mission in coming days.

soundoff (435 Responses)
  1. Raymond Charne

    I really don't know why the US doesn't stay out of other people's civil war. Why not so concern about Libia and not when Isreal killing all those peole in Gaza........US is two face it is just about the oil!!!!

    March 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Even if I agree we should stop the Gaza fighting, that doesn't mean we shouldn't act here.

      March 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jen

    I don't understand why US is constantly messing with dangerous conflicts. These are the kinds of conflicts that no matter which side you choose, you will end up as the bad guy. The wise thing to do is to stay far away, and US has the advantage of not bordering any of these countries.

    March 21, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • adam

      If all we do is destroy the War Machines of dictators, as is the mission in Libya, I have no problem with the US involvment

      March 21, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      I guess you missed the part about wide UN and NATO support including the Arab League.

      March 21, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Madge

    Yo, CNN, the city is called "Misurata" not MisTATA! "However, an opposition spokesman said Gadhafi's forces have continued to fight in Mistata...."

    March 21, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Madge

    For all the naysayers, the Libyan people ASKED for help. No, they BEGGED for help. They would have been slaughtered if the world hadn't answered their call. This is not a unilateral operation. The French went in first. It was a joint effort and the Arab world supported it. So go have your Starbucks, buy a Big Mac and take your self-loathing somewhere else.

    March 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. honey

    I find it interesting repubicans r concerned about entering libya but pushed so hard for iraq.

    March 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Interesting? Try unbelievable. Turns out the people in Libya are dying at the hands of their government. In Iraq, Bush claimed the war was in part due to the killing of the Kurds in the 80's. So I guess the problem for Republicans is, "we should have waited 30 more years, let Gadhafi fully clean house, then cry about it." At least this time we are stopping the massacre before it happens.

      March 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dude

    I think it's fair to say I have never before agreed w/ DICK Lugar, but I do today; I don't understand the mission. Now we've shut down his airspace, as we did in Iraq for how many years? Then we had to put boots on the ground. Now what? He will hunt his opponents down and kill them unless we send boots. AND WE ARE NOT SENDING BOOTS!

    March 21, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corwin7

      I think I can clear up your's related to facts....yours are wrong...the no fly zone was indeed controling and reducing saddams effectiveness and we (or rather the republicans chose) to put "boots on the ground" not "had to" as you suggest. Even a small child would realize you are misrepresenting the facts to support your biased point of view.

      March 21, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. adam

    as I understand it, our mission is to cripple Libya's war machine by attacking their advanced weaponry to enable the UN to go into areas to provide humanitarian relief and to give the pro-democracy forces a fighting chance. We are good at destroying the war machines of states and we should be done with this soon. Tyrants beware, if you use your airforce against your own people, the world, lead by the USA, will destroy your airforce.

    March 21, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff Frank

    I think we should assume Libya's oil production, then turn around and sell it back to goofy Gadhafi for not less than $500 a barrel, then simply tell him...."How do you like it?" 😉

    March 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. janafromcanada

    Really enough with all Conspiracies and the they should and shouldn' alive is humanity...we are extincting ourselves and letting it be done to others if we sit back and ignore it....ignorance is bliss. We help when disasters happen in other places and people love us for it then and will take the help....well this is a disaster too and why if we can help shouldn't we? Yes US gets their hands dirty in alot, however I think this is reasonable ground and for you that want to turn a blind eye and ignore it – shame on you and your stupid thoughts. Arabs not on ibya ground? That is surprising to some people on here? They never are at peace and have been fighting for yeatrs over money and religion...fricken get over it again, waste of time and money and most important lives. Put them all in a field (the ones who want to fight and kill) and let them do eachother in and leave others out of alive thank god we live in peaceful Canada.

    March 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David

    I am just so fed up with the political banter. Of course a Republican is going to say he "doesn't understand the mission." Just so tired of the games. Anywhere someone sees an opportunity to politically attack the opposition they take it. This has nothing to do with the actual mission, just a "perceived" opening. The mission is to keep civilians safe and stop the aggression of Gadhafi. I don't know exactly why that is so confusing? I think my response would be, "I don't understand why you don't understand?" Pretty straight forward for every other country participating. Why is it not clear for you?

    March 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Again, if you want to attack the mission fine. But stating that you don't understand the mission, just makes you look uninformed or incompetent.

      March 21, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • mtrought

      people like Kucicnh arent smart enough to realise that they are giving away their true feelings for this BLACK PRESIDENT. BUSH never needed permission because he is white. Not every member of Congress or the Senate is as intelligent as we would expect them to be. They are just a bunch of folks who people voted in office, they did not vote on their intelligence but mainly how they looked in a suit. So when they come a talk rubbish no one should be surprised

      March 21, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JavaJ

    I am glad everyone is involved- give the people a chance to fight for their freedom and to change the government. The UN is just making sure they have a fair fight. The reason that the idiot can still be in power is if the people fail in overturning him. It is up to them- if they don't do it- then he can still be in power.

    March 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bigsk8fan

    with dubya in office, lugar liked everything about any kind of war. now with obama in office, lugar has reservations.

    March 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GreedySpeculator

    Ok, so far everything is going as planned:
    -Bunch of Arab Leage countries were told they would get richer with increased oil prices, if fighting goes on long time, instaed of Gaddafi finish off all the rebels and verthing will go back to normal.

    -US, UK France etc discussed human suffering and how they can restore order.
    Advantages: Whoever you kill, they will be bunch of some kind of Arabs, so lets go for it.....

    -Bloodsucker speculators in New York salivating in the prospect of prolonged fight and more money at the expense of :freaking Arabs" and average american.

    So, everthing looks good no?
    You might say, " hey where were all these suddenly humanitarian mofos (aka "allies" when isreal was massacring poor palestinians?"

    March 21, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. luvuall

    "Also, don't miss a gripping, high-resolution gallery of images from Libya." CNN: can you please tone down the drama element? It would be just as effective to say "We have high-resolution images from Libya in our gallery" and probably less offensive to those who know people who are being killed over there as we speak.

    March 21, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. chloe's comments

    You know if Obama had not acted, the Republicans would be complaining he's too soft, etc. Now that he's going with the UN resolution they're complaining. There is no way Obama is not going to be criticized by the GOP for anything he does or does not do - Libya included.

    March 21, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
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