Strikes push back Gaddafi's troops
Published 26/03/2011 | 04:22
International air strikes on Libya have forced government troops to retreat, with rebels regaining control of the city of Ajdabiya.
The fall of the eastern gateway urban centre followed a week of coalition action against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's military, which included missile strikes by RAF Tornados on Thursday and Friday.
The rebel victory in Ajdabiya dealt a blow to the regime, which acknowledged that the air strikes had forced its troops to withdraw and accused international forces of choosing sides in the fight.
"This is the objective of the coalition now. It is not to protect civilians because now they are directly fighting against the armed forces," deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said in Tripoli. "They are trying to push the country to the brink of a civil war."
His claims came as the Ministry of Defence released details of the mission carried out by British Tornado GR4 aircraft on Friday afternoon, which saw them take part in a co-ordinated missile strike against units of Gaddafi's military.
Major General John Lorimer said: "The Tornado aircraft launched a number of guided Brimstone missiles, destroying three armoured vehicles in Misrata and two further armoured vehicles in Ajdabiya.
"Brimstone is a high precision, low collateral damage weapon optimised against demanding and mobile targets. Britain and her international partners remain engaged in operations to support United Nations Security Resolution 1973, to enforce the established no-fly zone and are contributing to the Nato arms embargo of Libya."
The recapturing of Ajdabiya by anti-government fighters marked the first major turnaround for the uprising.
On the road into Ajdabiya, at least eight blackened regime tanks lay on the ground, while drivers honked horns in celebration and flew the tricolour rebel flag.
Others in the city fired their guns into the air and danced on the burned out combat vehicles.