Both crew from US fighter jet that crashed over Libya have been rescued but civilians may have been killed
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03/22/11 wire reports including AP
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The flag of the Libyan opposition to Gadhafi's government.


photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

Heavy anti-aircraft fire is lighting up the skies over Tripoli and the sound of loud explosions is echoing through the Libyan capital after nightfall.

A U.S. official says both the crew of an F-15 fighter jet that crashed yesterday in Libya are safe and back in American hands.

The official said a Marine Corps Osprey search and rescue aircraft retrieved the pilot. He says the second crew member, a weapon's officer, was recovered by Libyan rebel forces and is now in U.S hands.

The crash occurred last night at 5:30 Eastern time after what the military says was an equipment malfunction.

The Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe & Africa, Admiral Samuel Locklear, spoke by teleconference from aboard the USS Mount Whitney in the Mediterranean Sea.

"Anytime we have an aircraft malfunction and we lose that aircraft there'll be a complete investigation expected, so I'm not prepared to talk about what that investigation may or may not reveal. I will say that the recovery mission from my perspective was executed as I would have expected it to be given the circumstances."

Reporter:

"You can't even say if you opened fire?"

Admiral Locklear:

"What I'm going to say is that we are doing an investigation, we are only hours away from having that incident occur, we're in the middle of a major operation out here. This investigation will take time. It will be looked at very carefully I'm sure by the '...' as we go forward."

In response to a reporter’s question, Locklear would not say whether reports were true that five villagers were killed by U.S. air fire during the rescue operation.

U.S. military officials said today that a two-day assault on Libyan air defenses has been largely successful. That has made it safer for coalition pilots to patrol the skies, particularly in the Benghazi area and the scope of U.S. and coalition military attacks on Libya is narrowing.

International reaction to the U.S.-led attack is varied. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the international campaign to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya must continue until Gadhafi stops military action against his own people.

Spain's Parliament has overwhelmingly approved the prime minister's decision to take part in the U.S.-led no-fly zone.

France has proposed that a new political steering committee outside NATO be responsible for overseeing military operations over Libya. And China has called for an immediate cease-fire.

U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear told Pentagon reporters that civilians are under attack by Libyan government forces in the third largest city, Misrata.

"On March 18 the coalition forces began a graduated sequence campaign against the government of Libya to establish a no-fly zone in order to protect innocent civilians. Following initial operations in Benghazi by our French partners, United Kingdom and U.S. cruise missile attacks accompanied by significant coalition air strikes rendered Gadhafi's long range air defenses and his air force largely ineffective, thus enabling the coalition to establish a no-fly zone and opening the door for international and non-governmental organization humanitarian assitance efforts. We continue to expand the effectiveness of our coalition no-fly zone and other coalition capabilities. It's my judgement, however, that despite our successes to date, that Gadhafi and his forces are not yet in compliance with the United Nations Security Council resolution due to the continued aggressive actions his forces are taking against the civilian population of Libya."

Retired U.S. General Colin Powell says Gadhafi must step down after launching military attacks against his opponents.

But President Barack Obama's authority to order the military action against Libya without congressional approval is being challenged - and congressional critics are using candidate Obama's words against him.

In a Dec. 20, 2007 interview with the Boston Globe, Obama was asked about the president's constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking authorization from Congress. Obama said the president doesn't have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve a threat to the U.S.

In a letter to Congress yesterday, Obama said he authorized the military action against Libya as part of a "multilateral response authorized under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973."

U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich wants to defund military operations in Libya.

The U.N. refugee agency is calling on the rest of Europe to help Italy cope with a massive influx of migrants from North Africa, especially Libya and Tunisia.

Previous WMNF news coverage of Libya

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“Death From Above”

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