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War In Libya, Monday's News

People stand near the rubble of Libyan government building destroyed by an Allied air strike on March 20, 2011.
AFP/Getty Images
People stand near the rubble of Libyan government building destroyed by an Allied air strike on March 20, 2011.

The U.S and its European Allies continue to carry out military air strikes in Libya in their effort to halt forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi. We're following developments; this post will automatically refresh every 30 minutes unless we jump in with breaking news.

Update at 6:43 p.m. ET: We're pausing our live blog here. But we'll be back tomorrow early.

Update at 6:34 p.m. ET: Gadhafi Continues Attacks:

The Guardian reports that BBC News has some grim new from the city of Misurata. They spoke to a spokesman for the rebels who said the situation there was a "catastrophe:"

"We've had more than 40 dead, more than 200 injured here today because when Gaddafi stopped the military actions, the people went out on to the street to demonstrate and the military started shooting at them with heavy weapons," he said.

"They even shot three ambulances - two of the drivers were killed."

The New York Times reports that the rebels who were trying to retake control of Ajdabiya were pushed back by Gadhafi forces:

Rebel fighters trying to retake the eastern town of Ajdabiya said they were driven back on Monday by rocket and tank fire from government loyalists still controlling entrances to the city. Dozens of fighters fell back to a checkpoint around 12 miles north of Ajdabiya, and rebels said at least eight others had been killed during the day's fighting, including four who had been standing in a bloodied pickup truck that the fighters showed to reporters.

Update at 6:15 p.m. ET: UN Security Council Rejects Meeting Request From Libya:

The AP reports that after a closed-door meeting the UN has decided not meet, after it received a letter from Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime who claimed that "an external conspiracy was targeting ... (Libya) and its unity and territorial integrity." The AP adds:

According to the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Kousa accused France and the US of bombing "several civilian sites" in violation of the UN Charter and called for "an emergency meeting in order to halt this aggression."

The council, reports the AP, decided to meet Thursday, when they were already scheduled to do so. The resolution passed last Thursday requires a report from the UN's secretary general at that time.

Update at 3:45 p.m. ET. Reports Of Anti-Aircraft Fire:

CNN and Libyan State TV are reporting that anti-aircraft fire is being heard again around Tripoli.

Update at 3 p.m. ET. Days, Not Weeks For Transfer Of Control To NATO, Obama Says:

"We anticipate this transition" — from U.S. control of military operations over Libya to NATO control — "to take place in a matter of days and not in a matter of weeks," President Obama just said.

The president is taking questions during an appearance in Santiago with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.

Update at 2:50 p.m. ET. Obama Says There Are Other Tools Besides Military Action To Push Gadhafi From Power:

Asked how he can "square" the limited objective of the military mission in Libya (to protect civilians) with his position that Gadhafi has "lost legitimacy" and must leave power, President Obama just said that the current mission is "in support of an international mandate" that said "we have to stop any potential atrocities inside of Libya."

"It is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go," Obama added, and there are other "tools" that could make that happen — presumably including sanctions.

The president is taking questions during an appearance in Santiago with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.

Update at 2:35 p.m. ET. Obama On 'Legitimate Aspirations':

At a joint appearance in Santiago with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, President Obama just said that the U.S. and the other nations now engaged in military operations over Libya believe that across North Africa and the Middle East, "the legitmate aspirations of people must be met."

Update at 2:30 p.m. ET. Canadians Fly First Missions:

"Canadian military jets flew their first missions over Libya on Monday as part of the U.N.-mandated intervention," Reuters reports. In Ottawa, Defense Minister Peter MacKay "said that four CF-18 fighter jets and two refueling tankers conducted a patrol," the wire service says.

Update at 1:15 p.m. ET. Rebels Are 'Untrained Young Men' Who Hope To 'Reorganize':

From eastern Libya, NPR's Eric Westervelt says that the opposition forces are mostly made up of young, untrained men with rifles and other light weapons. He says their leaders hope to use any relief they get from Gadhafi's attacks to "reorganize." Here's some of what Eric had to say during a call to NPR's Newcast today:

Update at 12:35 p.m. ET. 'Threatening Or Attacking Civilians' Will Prompt Strikes:

What does the Libyan military need to do to avoid further strikes by allied forces, U.S. Gen. Carter Ham was just asked?

Ham said there is "no intent to completely destroy the Libyan military forces. ... What we look for, is to the degree that we can, to discern intent."

Libyan units that are moving away from civilian areas will be watched, he said. "If they are compliant ... we will not attack them." However, if those units again start firing on civilians, "we can, we have and we will" engage them.

Update at 12:20 p.m. ET. Gadhafi Could Remain In Power, U.S. Commander Says:

Asked by reporters at the Pentagon whether he can envision a scenario where the allies' mission to protect civilians is accomplished but Gadhafi remains in power, Gen. Carter Ham just said, "I do see a situation where that could be the case."

He added that "I don't think anyone would say that is ideal."

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. 'No Boots On The Ground':

Army Gen. Carter Ham, commander of the military operations, just told reporters at the Pentagon that there are "no boots on the ground" in support of the effort.

Update at noon ET. Gadhafi's Air Defenses 'Largely Neutralized,' Cameron Says:

"I can announce to the House today that coalition forces have largely neutralized Libyan air defenses and that as a result, the no-fly zone has effectively been put in place over Libya," British Prime Minister David Cameron has told parliament.

Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. Libyans Have 'Far More' Chance Of Determining Their Own Future:

With military action underway against Gadhafi's forces, the Libyan people "have far more of a chance of choosing their own future today than they did 24 or 48 hours ago," British Prime Minister David Cameron just told his parliament.

Update at 11:50 a.m. ET. 'Absolutely In Line' With U.N. Resolution:

The actions taken so far by allied forces have been "absolutely in line with what the U.N. [Security Council]" agreed to it its resolution last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron just told his parliament.

He also said that Royal Air Force pilots have tried to limit any danger to civilians on the ground in Libya — and that pilots on one mission aborted when they determined that some civilians might be in harm's way.

Update at 11:45 a.m. ET. 'Stop Taking Orders From This Regime':

Addressing the forces loyal to Gadhafi, British Prime Minister David Cameron just told parliament that he has this message for them: "put down your weapons, step away from your tanks and stop taking orders from this regime."

Update at 11:40 a.m. ET. U.K. Prime Minister Is Taking Questions:

It's question time in parliament, and you can watch as Prime Minister David Cameron talks about the military action if you click here.

Update at 11:10 a.m. ET. Medvedev Says It's Wrong To Use Term 'Crusades':

As we said earlier, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today likened the U.N. resolution authorizing military action to the crusades. Now, Reuters reports, "Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday said the use of the term crusades to refer to the situation in Libya was 'unacceptable.' "

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. Putin Likens Military Action To 'Medieval Calls For Crusades' ":

"Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday [that] a U.N. resolution authorizing military action in Libya resembled 'mediaeval calls for crusades' after Western forces launched a second wave of air strikes," Reuters reports. He said the resolution is flawed because "it allows everything."

Update at 9:30 a.m. ET. In Tripoli, Critics Of Gadhafi Start Emerging:

Some supporters of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are driving through the streets of Tripoli — honking horns and waving flags as they go. But NPR's David Greene tells our Newscast desk that "critics of Gadhafi ... are [also] starting to almost come out of the woodwork."

"One gentleman in Tripoli told me yesterday, 'give these bombings a week and the people who don't like Gadhafi are going to rise up again.' "

Here's a short audio report from David:

Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. Military Action Could Last 'Awhile,' French Official Says:

"The international military intervention in Libya is likely to last 'awhile,' a top French official said Monday, echoing Moammar Gadhafi's warning of a long war ahead as rebels said they were fighting to reclaim a city under the Libyan leader's control," The Associated Press reports.

It adds that "Henri Guaino, a top adviser to the French president, said two nights of bombing runs and missile attacks had hobbled Libya's air defenses, stalled Gadhafi's troops and all but ended attacks on civilians. ... Guaino, asked how long the allied efforts would continue, replied simply: 'Awhile yet.' "

Update at 8:30 a.m. ET: The Libyan government has released four New York Times journalists who were captured six days ago.

6:25 a.m. ET. Our original post:

NPR's Tom Gjelten tells Morning Edition allies struck pro-Gadhafi fighters near the rebel held city of Benghazi and destroyed the tanks, leaving a 'smoking, bloody scene'. He says reporters were briefed by Navy Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, who says Gadhafi himself is not on any target list.

But Allied planes bombed Libya's capital, Tripoli, for a second night, destroying one of Gadhafi's residences. NPR's David Greene is in Tripoli and tells Morning Edition he was escorted to the wrecked Libyan government building. The U.S. government says the building was struck because it was a strategic command center.

NPR's Eric Westervelt is in eastern Libya, controlled by rebels. He tells NPR Newscasts that the rebels are overjoyed with the help from the Allied bombing strikes. Eric says rebel fighters are so undisciplined it's unclear if they can take military advantage of the situation.

The Arab League may have had a change of heart on its support of an international no-fly zone; and expressed discomfort with the Allied attacks on Libya, saying the bombing goes beyond a no-fly zone called for by the United Nations. The Canadian Press says a group of pro-Gadhafi protesters jostled UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as he left an Arab League meeting in Cairo.

Note: NPR follows Associated Press style when spelling Gadhafi's name. Other media may use different spellings.

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.