Gaddafi air raid increases pressure to intervene
Published 01/03/2011 | 05:00
Col Muammar Gaddafi showed he still retained some air capacity after war planes bombed rebel-held eastern Libya yesterday.
Despite the defections of several of his fighter pilots, at least one target -- an ammunitions depot that has fallen into opposition hands -- came under attack near the town of Adjabiya, 100 miles south of Benghazi, headquarters of the insurrection.
There were contradictory reports of what actually happened. Residents claimed the depot was struck by fixed-wing fighter jets.
But revolutionary officials said the attack was carried out by two helicopters, whose pilots deliberately fired at open ground near the camp and then defected.
"They were supposed to hit a military camp, that was their goal," said Hana el-Gallal, a spokeswoman for the new civilian administration in Benghazi. "But they refused and have now defected."
Residents of Benghazi said military aircraft flew close to the city later in the day but made no attempt to bomb it.
Col Gaddafi's efforts to win back eastern Libya, which he lost over a week ago, have suffered repeated blows after the defections of some of his top pilots, who have either flown to Malta or ejected from their cockpits after being ordered to bomb rebel positions.
The development will raise pressure on the West to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
Mrs Gallal said yesterday's bombing raids were meant both to deplete the uprising's ammunition supply and spread fear.
"We are supposed to be scared, but we are not," she said.
Leaders of the insurrection say they have as many as 15 war planes in their possession, ready to bomb Col Gaddafi's main base in Tripoli if called on by their supporters in the city. (© Daily Telegraph, London)