[UPDATE] 3-20 6:08 PM--
ON BOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Pentagon expects to turn control of the Libya
military mission over to a coalition -- led either by the French and British or by NATO -- "in a matter of days."
In his first public remarks since the start of the bombings, Gates says President Barack Obama feels very strongly about limiting America's role in the operation against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, adding that the president is "more aware than almost anybody of the stress on the military."
While the U.S. "will have a military role in the coalition," Gates says, it "will not have the preeminent role."
Gates' comments came as American ships and aircraft continued to pound Libya, taking out radar, communications and missile sites along its Mediterranean coast.
[UPDATE] 3-20 3:50 PM--
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- Anti-aircraft fire has erupted in the Libyan capital, with volleys of tracer fire arching into the air, marking the start of a second night of allied strikes on the country.
There is no immediate word on the targets in the new round of strikes. The heavy chatter of anti-aircraft defenses began soon after nightfall.
The U.S. military says the first air assault by the U.S. and its allies the night before -- including airstrikes by long-range bombers and a shower of Tomahawk cruise missiles -- was successful, though it did not fully eliminate the threat from Libyan air defenses.
[UPDATE] 3-19 9:30 PM --
BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) -- Libyan state TV is quoting the armed forces command as saying 48 people have been killed and 150 wounded in the the allied assault by U.S. and European forces. The report can't be independently confirmed.
The U.S. and European nations have begun pounding Moammar Gadhafi's forces and air defenses with cruise missiles and airstrikes in the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat.
Libyan TV says most of the casualties are children.
[UPDATE] 3-19 9:30 PM --
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses and a senior American defense official said it was believed Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses suffered substantial damage.
In the strikes, 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya's air force.
While U.S. defense officials cautioned that it was too early to fully gauge the impact of the onslaught, the official said that given the precision targeting of the Navy's cruise missiles, they felt that Libya's air defenses suffered a good deal of damage.
The official spoke on grounds of anonymity because the ongoing
[UPDATE] 3-19 4:30 PM --
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pentagon: 112 cruise missiles launched from US
and UK ships and subs, hitting 20 sites
[UPDATE] 3-19 4:25 PM --
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two U.S. officials say American ships and aircraft are poised for military action against Libya, but they aren't participating in the initial French air missions over the North African nation.
One U.S. official says the Navy is planning a sea-launched missile attack from the Mediterranean against elements of Libya's coastal air defenses.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of military operations.
One official says the U.S. intends to limit its involvement -- at least in the initial stages -- to helping protect French and other air missions by taking out Libyan air defenses.
The official says that depending on how Libyan forces respond, the U.S. could launch additional attacks in support of allied forces.
[UPDATE] 3-19 4:25 PM --
PARIS (AP) -- A French official says a French fighter jet has fired on a Libyan military vehicle, in a first reported strike in the international campaign to enforce a no-fly zone.
A French Defense Ministry spokesman, Thierry Burkhard, says the strike was reported around 1645 GMT Saturday.
Burkhard says the target was confirmed as a military vehicle, but it was not clear what kind.
That word comes shortly after top officials from the United States, Europe and the Arab world announced immediate military action to protect civilians as Gadhafi's forces attacked Benghazi.
[UPDATE] 3-19 4:17 PM--
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- President Barack Obama says the United States has launched a limited military action in Libya against the forces of Moammar Gadhafi.
The president, speaking during a visit to Brazil, said the United States and its allies had not sought this outcome but that Gadhafi had given the West no choice. In Obama's words: "We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy."
Obama says he is aware of the risks of taking military action. He declared once again that the United States will not send ground forces into Libya.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. military has launched a missile attack against Libya's air defenses.
A senior U.S. military official says the strike was aimed at sites along the Libyan coast. The missiles were launched from U.S. Navy vessels in the Mediterranean.
The official says the assault would unfold in stages and strike at air defense installations around Tripoli, the capital, and a coastal area south of Benghazi. That's the rebel stronghold under attack by Muammar Gadhafi's forces.
Complete details were not immediately available.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive military operations.