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. Ronnie Raygun

    Even if the compound did not contain capabilities to exercise command and control over Libyan forces the end result is the same...Gaddafi can no longer exercise command and control over Libyan forces or inspire them on TV if he's hiding in a bunker.

    March 21, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. stanley

    Who would have believed two years ago that this man of color, having experienced the 3d world and the Chicago streets, would be the Patrician President taking 5 days in carioca land, distancing himself from Saudi murderers in Bahrain, mumbling about “he must go” while thousands die. They believed America would be there. Instead we have pictures of a smirk. The oil boys know he needs their money to keep his private chef. Iran Oh my God. Protect us from their centrifuges.

    Surely they all thought when they fell for liberty and freedom that we would not do again what we did in Rwanda (NOTHING) (not even a protest for 1 million); what we did in Iran (NOTHING) (dissembled and let them be tortured and killed)

    The world now knows the truth. In every corner of every country the Internet, the cell phone portrays our immorality. Who will ever trust America in the future? Why spend billions on foreign aid and “democracy building” Cut it to zero.
    For so many it is too late The corpses litter every street in every town. Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, soon Syria.
    What words are strong enough to express outrage at the wimp, the ditherer, the evil this man permits. Did George W Bush besmirch our history? No, he upset our “UN allies” by going it alone. He was a liar and he was wrong but not like this man. Obama is the butcher, on a much greater scale than Kadafi.
    How did I end up holding hands with Bill O’Reilly?

    March 21, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TK49

    We hear these enormous costs reported for military actions (i.e. Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) however, what is the real ‘additional’ budget impact cost for such deployments? I think costs reported are inflated and misleading. I’m not saying there are not additional costs, but the military costs reported seem to be the total cost of the forces involved, directly and indirectly and I’d just like to hear some real numbers and not ‘sensationalized’ figures used to hype news reporting. To my logic, the only major additional costs would be some percentage of spent ordinance and some cost for relocation of ground and maybe air forces.

    Salaries, housing, food, medical costs, fuel, etc. would be incurred even without such events. These troops constantly train (sometimes with live ordinance) so most of the cost is already in the budgets of our military. Of course, ordinance cost would go up some percentage, cost of additional transportation of troops, equipment, etc. to the deployment locations, and probably some percentage increase fuel expenditures. I also understand that some percentage of housing vacated, including energy cost would still be incurred, but should be reduced.

    As a Viet Nam veteran, I’m certainly not disregarding, disrepecting or minimizing the ‘human’ cost in any way. Loss of life, injuries and certainly the mental impact on family members are terrible costs indeed and my heart goes out to those involved. However, it is very difficult to directly calculate these factors as a cost of a military deployment and are totally different discussions.

    March 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. parkmore

    The Arab League, Russia and China criticized the intervention
    LEMONDE.FR with AFP and Reuters | 20.03.11 | 6:08 p.m. • Updated 20.03.11 | 10:33 p.m.

    The intervention of the American, British and French has drawn sharp criticism from the Arab League on Sunday. The Secretary General of the League, Amr Moussa, said that "what happens in Libya is different from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the more bombing of civilians. " An extraordinary meeting of the League should take place in the coming days.

    Critics who echo the reservations of China, which abstained from voting in the Security Council of UN. "China has seen the latest developments in Libya and expressed his regrets about military attacks," said Beijing. China wants to avoid "an escalation of military conflict, leading to further loss of civilian lives," said a spokesman of the government. "It is unacceptable to use the mandate of the Security Council [...] in order to complete objectives that clearly go beyond its provisions, which only measures to protect the civilian population."

    Russia, which had also abstained in the vote on the resolution, called Sunday the international coalition to stop using force in an "indiscriminate" and thus to civilian casualties in Libya. A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry believes that "48 civilians were killed and 150 wounded" by air strikes, with "attacks were also launched against non-military objectives." A medical center specializing in cardiology, has also been partially destroyed and roads and bridges were damaged by the strikes, according to Moscow.

    The United States responded indirectly to the Arab League on Sunday. "The resolution approved by the Arabs and the Council of the UN Security includes 'all necessary measures' to protect civilians, which we have well said, includes a no-fly zone while going beyond "said a spokesman for Obama told Reuters during a visit of President Barack Obama in Rio de Janeiro.

    A senior Libyan oil sector said Sunday that Libya was considering offering oil contracts directly with China, India and other countries it considers as "friendly countries".

    March 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. parkmore

    Sham on you Obama, go kill them all and make it as a story to your --

    March 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. admiral 149

    U.S. history has taught us that all presidents want their own war, even the liberal politicians, because, there is something special and inspirational about leading a great nation during a war. War is one job where the Congress is willing to allow the executive to shoulder all the criticism. I am amazed at how bellicose the political liberals have become. There is no moral indignation at the murder of innocent people in Libya. No one is calling for the indictment of the Secretary of Defense, or even the current Vice President. Must be that either American Liberals dislike Libyans, or that President Obama's war is less devastating or lethal than President Bush's war. Liberals seem to be more comfortable with Obama's two wars than they were with George Bush's one war. In any event it has long been said that politics makes strange bed fellows.

    March 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. educatedguess

    James Rubin on CNN, Berger on MSNBC, and Josh Bolton on Fox, all selling this new war.

    guess what they share in common!

    March 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. EL

    Yay more killing in the name of oil. Sickening....

    March 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. keith

    Of course they will never 'officially' admit it, but there ARE US and coalition forces on the ground....they have to have individuals to direct the airstrikes in, especially if they are trying not to hit civilians. The report of an RAF GR4 Tornado aborting its attack because of civilians most likely because of forward air controllers on the ground at that location, who would have advised the civilians are there....just part of the package that allows attacks to occur. If those boots were not on the ground doing that, then they would be harming civilians

    March 21, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Patrick

    With the acquisition / destabilization of the Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya the USA has now moved from a position of #15 in proven oil reserves control to #4 in proven oil reserves control in the world and you ask why all this crap is going on, its all about oil, false flag operation making it look like popular uprising when in fact it is an invasion by infidels

    March 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Stormspotter

    No Fly Zone? I was not aware that Libyian tanks could fly.

    March 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. onelife


    March 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. wakeup

    Very interesting that the Chinese have the navy at Libya.The only logical reason they would be there is to use high end frequency counters to gain the freq's that are being used so they can better their jamming capabilities in the future.people should be cautious of this situation.

    March 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. angela

    Being Gadhafi is not a target what happens when the coalition leaves. Gadhafi will just continue where he left off

    March 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    I wonder how much of the complaining and accusations toward the US and Obama are written by extremists for propaganda purposes. I also wonder how much giving such idiots a forum to air their petty and often rediculous arguements is a good idea. However, in the US we have civil liberties, including the right to free speech. This is something the people of Libya do not have and the US supports.

    March 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
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