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US Launches 112 Tomahawk Missiles into Libya

by Robert Burns

The U.S. military attacked Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses Saturday with strikes along the Libyan coast that were launched by Navy vessels in the Mediterranean.

President Obama, speaking today on Libya. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP) A senior military official said the assault would unfold in stages and target air defense installations around Tripoli, the capital, and a coastal area south of Benghazi. That’s the rebel stronghold under attack by Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

Complete details were not immediately available, though the Pentagon said 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from U.S. and British warships off the Libyan coast.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive military operations.

Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended an international conference in Paris that endorsed military action against Gadhafi, the U.S. kicked off its attacks on Libyan air defense missile and radar sites along the Mediterranean coast to protect no-fly zone pilots from the threat of getting shot down.

President Barack Obama authorized limited military action against Libya Saturday, saying Moammar Gadhafi’s continued assault on his own people left the U.S. and its international partners with no other choice. The Pentagon said it fired 110 cruise missiles at 20 targets.

Obama said military action was not his first choice.

“This is not an outcome US or any of our partners sought,” Obama said from Brazil, where he is starting a five-day visit to Latin America. “We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy.”

A senior military official said the U.S. launched air defenses Saturday with strikes along the Libyan coast that were launched by Navy vessels in the Mediterranean. The official said the assault would unfold in stages and target air defense installations around Tripoli, the capital, and a coastal area south of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold.

Obama declared once again that the United States would not send ground forces to Libya, though he said he is “deeply aware” of the risks of taking any military action.

At a news conference in Paris, Clinton said Gadhafi had left the world no choice but to intervene urgently and forcefully to protect further loss of civilian life.

“We have every reason to fear that left unchecked Gadhafi would commit unspeakable atrocities,” she told reporters.

Among the U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean were two guided-missile destroyers, the USS Barry and USS Stout, as well as two amphibious warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, and a command-and-control ship, the USS Mount Whitney. The submarine USS Providence was also in the Mediterranean.

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