Libya: RAF 'comfortable' with outcome of airstrikes

Military spokesman Major General John Lorimer says all aircraft returned safely to the UK - Footage of Tornados courtesy MoD

The UK Ministry of Defence has said it is "entirely comfortable" with the outcome of the airstrikes on Libya.

RAF Tornados carried out a bombing mission, while a British submarine fired Tomahawk missiles.

Several Tornados took off from RAF Marham in Norfolk on Sunday, while Typhoon jets are on stand-by in Italy.

France, the US, Canada and Italy have also joined the UN-backed operation to protect civilians from attacks by Col Gaddafi's forces.

French jets launched a second day of operations over Libya but their planes did not open fire because they met no resistance.

In the last few hours, several explosions have been heard around Tripoli, and witnesses have reported seeing a column of smoke in the area of Col Gaddafi's military base and compound.

'Successful'

The Chief of Defence Staff's strategic communications officer Maj Gen John Lorimer said: "I can confirm that a number of Typhoon aircraft have landed safely at the Gioia Dell Colle airbase in southern Italy, where they are on standby for future tasking."

Analysis

Throughout the day they have been carrying out BDA (bomb damage assessments).

RAF analysts have been studying high level photographs of the effects of the last 24 hours of strikes on Libya's air defences and the conclusion they have reached is that they haven't quite completely finished the job.

So although patrolling of the skies has already begun we should probably expect a bit more work in that area.

But the question is where does this all end? What's the outcome? There's no doubt all those involved in the operation want Gaddafi's regime to collapse and for him to depart. But ideally they'd like this to happen from within, with as little fighting as possible.

He added that RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus continued to support the operation with a number of assets, including E-3D Sentry, Sentinel and VC10 planes.

Hercules aircraft also left RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, believed to be heading to the Mediterranean with equipment and supplies.

On Sunday evening, the government held its first meeting of a new National Security Council sub-committee on Libya.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the government was monitoring the situation closely after the latest announcement of a ceasefire in Libya.

Saturday's operation, which targeted an "integrated air defence system" in Libya, was the longest range bombing mission carried out by the RAF since the 1982 Falklands War.

The UK launched Tomahawk missiles from a Trafalgar class Royal Navy submarine, which were aimed at targets around the coastal cities of Tripoli and Misrata.

At least 124 missiles were fired by the US and UK, and they hit 20 of 22 targets causing "various levels of damage", the US military said on Sunday.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said early indications suggested the operation was "very successful".

There would be further air strikes, "if necessary", with the aim of "paralysing" the regime's ability to attack its people, he said.

Asked how long the campaign would take, he said he hoped it would be over as "quickly as possible".

But he added: "That is dependent on how quickly Gaddafi recognises that the game is up."

Liam Fox MP: "If necessary we will carry out further attacks."

The RAF Tornados flew from Norfolk and concentrated on targets around the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Speaking after a briefing at the MoD, Air Vice Marshal Phil Osborn said the bombing mission had been "fairly complex".

He said the Storm Shadow weapons used by the jets on their eight hours' round trip had attacked targets with an accuracy of between one to two metres.

Captain Karl Evans, Chief of Naval Staff, said the submarine which fired Tomahawk cruise missiles during last night's mission was still in position to attack Libya, while two Royal Navy ships were taking part in a naval blockade.

Start Quote

We have all seen the appalling brutality meted out by Col Gaddafi against his own people”

End Quote David Cameron Prime Minister
'Just cause'

Libyan state TV reported that what it called the "crusader enemy" had bombed civilian areas of Tripoli, as well as fuel storage tanks supplying the western city of Misrata.

A Libyan government spokesman described the coalition attacks as "aggression without excuse" and claimed many civilians had been hurt.

Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a "just cause" and in "Britain's best interests".

"We have all seen the appalling brutality meted out by Col Gaddafi against his own people," he said.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the international community "could not have stood by as innocent people were slaughtered".

Meanwhile protesters from the Stop The War Coalition held a protest outside Downing Street on Sunday.

The organisation has condemned the military action, saying it would not stop the civil war and was a "prelude to a wider war with substantial loss of civilian lives".

A British journalist was being held by Libyan authorities in the capital Tripoli, Arab television station Al Jazeera revealed on Saturday night.

Cameraman Kamel Atalua was detained with a fellow cameraman and two correspondents, after the team had been reporting from Libya for several days.

The military action follows the passing of a UN resolution imposing a ban on all flights in Libyan airspace, excluding aid flights, and authorises member states to "take all necessary measures" to "protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack".

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