Cruise missile strikes Gadhafi compound

Cruise missile strikes Gadhafi compound
WASHINGTON — A cruise missile blasted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's residential compound overnight in an attack that carried as much symbolism as military effect.

Fighter jets also destroyed a line of tanks moving on the rebel capital. The U.S. said the international assault would hit any government forces attacking the opposition.

Jubilant rebels said they expected to bring Gadhafi down in a matter of days.

Meantime, U.S. military officials told NBC News that Gadhafi's chief of staff has ordered that bodies be removed from morgues and placed at a bombing site in Bab al Azaziya to make it appear the dead had been killed by coalition airstrikes.

The site, which the U.S. insists was a legitimate military target, was bombed Sunday and military intelligence reported no sign of civilian casualties.

According to intelligence reports, once the bodies are in place, international media will to be taken to the site to report the alleged atrocity.

The reported effort to stage the deaths of innocent civilians comes after the head of the Arab League condemned the apparent killing of civilians in coalition airstrikes.

Attack on Gadhafi's home
It was not known where Gadhafi was when the missile hit near his iconic tent late Sunday, but it seemed to show that while the allies trade nuances over whether the Libyan leader's fall is a goal of their campaign — he is not safe.

Half of a round, three-story administration building was knocked down and pieces of the missile were scattered around, according to Associated Press photographer escorted to the scene by the Libyan government. About 300 Gadhafi supporters were in the compound at the time. It was not known if any were hurt.

The sprawling complex houses his private quarters as well as military barracks, anti-aircraft batteries and other installations.

Showing pieces of shrapnel that he said came from the missile, government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim described the attack as "a barbaric bombing."
Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon news conference Sunday there is no evidence civilians in Libya have been harmed in the air assault, code named Odyssey Dawn. Gortney also said no allied planes have been lost and all pilots have returned safely from missions.

Gadhafi and his residence are not on a list of targets to be hit by coalition aircraft, Gortney said. But Gadhafi won't be safe "if he happens to be at a place, if he is inspecting a surface-to-air missile site and we don't have any idea that he's there or not," Gortney said.

However, Britain's Sky News quoted a senior U.K. military source as saying that as head of Libya's armed forces Gadhafi was considered a "legitimate target."

Britain said Monday one of its bombing missions was aborted last night to avoid civilian casualties.

"We believe that a number of civilians had been moved within the intended target area," the Ministry of Defense said Monday. State television had said Gadhafi's supporters were converging on airports as human shields.
The U.S. military said the bombardment so far — a rain of Tomahawk cruise missiles and precision bombs from American and European aircraft, including long-range stealth B-2 bombers — had hobbled Gadhafi's air defenses. More missile strikes overnight did new damage to anti-aircraft sites, the Italian military said.

"We judge these strikes to have been very effective in significantly degrading the regime's air defense capability," Gortney added. "We believe his forces are under significant stress and suffering from both isolation and a good deal of confusion."

American military authorities are moving to hand control of the operation to other countries.
U.S., British and French planes also went after tanks headed toward Benghazi, in the opposition-held eastern half of the country. On Sunday, at least seven demolished tanks smoldered in a field 12 miles south of Benghazi, many of them with their turrets and treads blown off, alongside charred armored personnel carriers, jeeps and SUVs of the kind used by Gadhafi fighters.

"I feel like in two days max we will destroy Gadhafi," said Ezzeldin Helwani, 35, a rebel standing next to the smoldering wreckage of an armored personnel carrier, the air thick with smoke and the pungent smell of burning rubber. In a grisly sort of battle trophy, celebrating fighters hung a severed goat's head with a cigarette in its mouth from the turret of one of the gutted tanks.
The strikes that began early Sunday gave respite to Benghazi, which the day before had been under a heavy attack that killed at least 120 people.

Western forces launched airstrikes until early on Monday on Gadhafi's forces around Ajdabiya, a strategic town in east Libya that rebels aim to retake, rebels said.

"There were airstrikes till early this morning. The rebels attacked at about 3 a.m. (9 p.m. ET Sunday) and Gadhafi's forces counter-attacked. They are still at the eastern gate of Ajdabiya," said Ahmed al-Tir, a rebel fighter in Zueitina about 9 miles away.
He and other rebels said airstrikes on Ajdabiya began late Sunday.

"If we don't get more help from the West, Gadhafi's forces will eat us alive," rebel fighter Nouh Musmari said, pointing out the type of equipment Gadhafi had that was destroyed on the road to Benghazi and saying government forces had much more.

The initial allied air raids destroyed Libyan army tanks and other heavy weapons on the road to Benghazi.
Tariq Boukhamadah, another rebel, said Gadhafi's forces between Ajdabiya and Brega, an oil town now in the control of government forces, were also bombarded by Western forces.

Zueitina, which has an oil terminal, had been attacked by Gadhafi's forces before Western forces launched strikes.

A rebel spokesman told Reuters Monday that forces loyal to Gadhafi were bringing civilians from nearby towns to the rebel-held city of Misrata to use as human shields.

The report from Misrata, the only big rebel stronghold left in western Libya, could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Libyan officials.
Protecting civilians
On Sunday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the goals of the operation are to protect civilians from further violence by pro-Gadhafi forces, while enabling the flow of humanitarian relief supplies. But it was unclear how long the military effort would continue or on what scale.

That uncertainty led to criticism from senior Republicans in Congress.
House Speaker John Boehner said that the Obama administration "has a responsibility to define for the American people, the Congress and our troops what the mission in Libya is" and how it will be accomplished.

Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Obama needs to tell the American public "to what extent military force will be used and for how long."

In Moscow, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also criticized the attacks. "The resolution is defective and flawed," he said. "It allows everything. It resembles medieval calls for crusades," Putin added.

Russia abstained from voting on the United Nations resolution which authorized the military action in Libya.

Source: Msnbc