Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Libyan forces fire Scud missile

Rebel fighters pass by a destroyed vehicle near the entrance of the town of Brega (AP)

Libyan government forces have tapped into their stores of Scud missiles, firing one for the first time in the conflict with rebels, but hurting no one, US defence officials have said.

The missile launch was detected by US forces shortly after midnight on Sunday, and the Scud landed in the desert about 50 miles outside Brega, said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rebel and government forces have battled over the strategic port city of Brega throughout the conflict, and control has swung back and forth between the two sides.

The strike comes as rebel forces continue to advance, working in recent days to block vital supply routes around Tripoli. The Obama administration said that it is encouraged by recent rebel progress but stopped short of predicting victory for the opposition forces after months of inconclusive battles.

According to the military, the Scud missile was launched from a location about 50 miles east of Surt, a city on the Mediterranean coast about 230 miles east of Tripoli.

Noting that Scuds are not precision-guided missiles, officials said they could not tell whether Brega was the target.

Brega is about 450 miles south east of Tripoli.

Early in the conflict, Nato and US forces targeted sites around the country where Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi stored surface-to-surface missiles like Scuds, largely because they worried that he would use them to target areas beyond his control.

The military intervention in Libya began on March 19, after the UN authorised action to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by government forces. Nato took over the mission in early April, but the US has continued to provide jet fighters and drones, as well as warships off the coast.

Two senior US officials said it is too soon to tell whether the Scud strike was a singular incident or if it represented a new phase of fighting. Scuds have a range of up to 500 miles.

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