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Second night of strikes hits Libya

Anti-aircraft fire has erupted in the Libyan capital, marking the start of a second night of international strikes as a defiant Colonel Muammar Gaddafi pledged to wage a "long war".

The US military said the allied bombardment so far, using a rain of Tomahawk cruise missiles and strikes by long-range bombers, had been successful in diminishing Gaddafi's air defences.

Libya's rebels were jubilant after the first round of strikes before dawn on Sunday, which came as the overwhelming firepower of Gaddafi's forces had threatened to crush their month-old uprising.

The strikes gave immediate, if temporary, relief to the besieged rebel capital, Benghazi, in eastern Libya, which the day before had been under a heavy attack that killed at least 120 people.

Air strikes early on Sunday, apparently from French aircraft, devastated a Libyan tank force 12 miles south of Benghazi. Soon after nightfall on Sunday, heavy anti-aircraft fire rattled over Tripoli, with tracer fire arching into the sky, punctuated by the explosion of shells. The fire suggested a second night of strikes had begun.

On state TV, the Libyan armed forces repeated its claim that it ordered a ceasefire - though it appeared that its units continued fighting after a similar ceasefire call the night before.

The rebels hope that the allied intervention will turn the tide in Libya's conflict, breaking sieges by Gaddafi's forces on several opposition-held cities and eventually leading to the removal of the Libyan leader after nearly 42 years in power.

Libya said 48 people were killed in the first round of strikes, including many civilians. That brought criticism of the campaign from the head of the Arab League, which last week took the unprecedented step of calling for a no-fly zone.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa has criticised the allied strikes, saying they went beyond what the Arab body had supported. "What happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives," said Mr Moussa. "What we want is civilians' protection not shelling more civilians."

Nevertheless, France said warplanes in the Arab Gulf nation of Qatar would participate in the air campaign, a sign of continued Arab support.


From Belfast Telegraph