Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Situation Remains Dire In Libya as Fighting Continues

The situation in Libya remains dire as fighting continues between rebel groups and Khadafi loyalists.

Khadafi's goons captured three Dutch helicopter crewmembers who were trying to evacuate Dutch citizens from the country
. Word of the capture had been kept under wraps until a Dutch paper spilled the beans.
Libyan forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi have captured three crew members of a Dutch naval helicopter who were rescuing European citizens, last Sunday, the Dutch Defense Ministry said on Thursday, the first report of foreigners being by held in Libya’s bloody and unfolding uprising.

Otte Beeksma, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said the pro-Qaddafi forces also captured two civilians being rescued — one Dutch, the other from an unspecified European country — who had since been released. Dutch officials decline to give personal details of the crew members while confidential negotiations for their release were underway.

The authorities had kept word of the capture a secret until a Dutch newspaper broke the story.

Mr. Beeksma, said the crew of a Lynx helicopter had landed in the coastal city of Sirte — a pro-Qaddafi stronghold — after flying from a navy ship, the HMS Tromp, anchored offshore. The helicopter was “surrounded by armed Libyan forces late on Sunday afternoon.”

The two people being evacuated were transferred to the Dutch Embassy in Tripoli on Sunday, but the crew and their helicopter were still being held. Mr. Beeksma did not identify the two people who were being rescued.

The use of military personnel in such operations is not limited to the Dutch authorities. Last weekend, British news reports said British special forces accompanied a rescue effort by the Royal Air Force to pluck oil workers to safety from remote desert encampments.
It's little wonder then that the US has moved its naval forces closer to Libya as I had noted yesterday. The US isn't likely to engage in military actions except if the humanitarian and relief flight crews come under attack. Capturing the three Dutch crewmembers who were conducting relief flights would qualify.

None other than Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (who's no stranger to undemocratic actions and stifling of dissent) is offering to mediate the conflict between Khadafi and the opposition. He's also busy railing that the situation in Libya is a pretext for a US invasion to take the country's oil.

The International Criminal Court will be investigating Khadafi for possible crimes against humanity in his attempts to quell the uprising and brutal use of force. Khadafi's goons continue attempts to retake territory captured by the opposition, including the oil port city of Brega. His forces have tried airstrikes and attacks from multiple fronts with little success.

While the opposition remains a ragtag collection of groups and even disgruntled army units with access to lots of weapons, including many of the same weapons that Khadafi has access to, they lack cohesive training. Reports indicate that these groups are in the process of training to better repel Khadafi's attacks, particularly airstrikes.

In Benghazi, the prime concern is that Khadafi will attempt airstrikes against the city.

President Obama has authorized military airlifts to transport refugees from Libya to safe areas outside the country.
President Obama called again on Thursday for the immediate resignation of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and said he had authorized American military airlifts to help transport refugees fleeing from Libya back to their home countries in the region.

“The U.S. and the entire world continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people,” Mr. Obama said after a White House meeting with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico. “Muammar el-Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.”

Mr. Obama said he had directed the Pentagon to prepare for a full range of possible military options in connection with the crisis in Libya. Asked about whether the United States would support sending warplanes over the country to keep the Libyan air force from attacking rebels, creating what is known as a no-flight zone, the president said that was one of the options being considered.

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