French shoot down first aircraft to breach no-fly zone
THE first Libyan aircraft to be destroyed for breaching the no-fly zone was shot down by a French fighter yesterday as coalition attacks on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's military intensified.
The Libyan combat plane was destroyed as it came in to land. French surveillance aircraft had spotted it flying near the city of Misurata in violation of the UN Security Council resolution. A French Rafale fighter fired a guided air-to-ground missile at the jet as it landed at an airbase.
The incident is the first downing of a Libyan fighter since Western powers began missile and air strikes on Saturday under the UN resolution aimed at shielding civilians from attacks by Gaddafi forces.
The Libyan government appealed to the United Nations to stop allied forces bombing civilian broadcasting and telecommunications facilities.
Dr Mussa Ibrahim, the official government spokesman, said the authorities had received intelligence that such attacks would take place imminently, as early as last night.
He said that, as well as the loss of civilian life, such attacks would cause harm to civilians trying to go about their normal lives across Libya.
The loss of oil production, sanctions such as the freezing of assets, and the chaos caused by the departure of foreign workers have hit towns across the country.
Queues of cars have been lined up outside petrol stations in the capital, Tripoli. There have been queues for bread, though, in general, food supplies are holding up.
Since the bombing started, shops that had tentatively reopened after weeks of protests have largely closed again. On the sixth day of the campaign, coalition aircraft and warships attacked artillery, tanks, an ammunition bunker and helicopters parked on an airfield.
Dr Ibrahim denied claims by Western powers, repeated yesterday by William Hague, Britain's Foreign Secretary, that the Libyan government's claim of a ceasefire was a "sham".
Coalition warships began to form a maritime blockade to prevent arms smuggling. Vice-Admiral Rinald Veri said he expected to have enough vessels in place to "close the main front door". (© Daily Telegraph, London)