March 22, 2011
Col Muammar Gaddafi’s air force “no longer exists as a fighting force”, the commander of British aircraft operating over Libya has said. Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell said the allies could now operate “with near impunity” over the skies of Libya. He said they were now applying unrelenting pressure on the Libyan armed forces. He was speaking during a visit to RAF aircrew based at Gioia del Colle in southern Italy. “We are watching over the innocent people of Libya and ensuring that we protect them from attack,” he said. “We have the Libyan ground forces under constant observation and we attack them whenever they threaten civilians or attack population centres.” His comments come as Nato members debate who should lead the intervention, with the US keen to hand over to Nato. They were echoed by Rear Admiral Gerard Hueber, US chief of staff for the Libya mission, who said: “We are putting pressure on Gadaffi’s ground forces that are threatening cities.” Asked if that meant air strikes, he replied: “Yes.” Speaking to reporters by phone from the command ship USS Mount Whitney, in the Mediterranean, he insisted there had been no reports of civilian casualties caused by allied action.