Report: NATO may attack Libya if violence continues
After Obama says 'suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, unacceptable,' European official tells al-Quds al-Arabi NATO, US warplanes stationed in Italy may be ordered to take down Libyan planes. Wall Street Journal: Washington fears Gaddafi may use mustard gas against protestors
NATO forces may attack forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi if the Libyan air force continues to bomb anti-government protesters, the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi reported Thursday, citing a European official claiming the US had threatened to intervene in the violence.
The source said NATO and US warplanes stationed in Italy may be ordered to take down Libyan planes, and that electronic warfare against them may already have been implemented.
The source told al-Quds al-Arabi that NATO forces may launch an aerial attack on Libya or fire missiles from warships positioned in international waters near Tripoli. Libyan army weapons caches may also be targeted, the source said.
US President Barack Obama said late Wednesday that the violent crackdown in Libya violated international norms and that he had ordered his national security team to prepare the full range of options for dealing with the crisis.
"It is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice," he told reporters in his first public comments on the turmoil in Libya.
The State Department said freezing Libyan assets, including those belonging to Gaddafi, were among the options being considered, and some US lawmakers have urge direct action such as imposing no-fly zones.
"The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable," Obama said at the White House with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his side. "These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop."
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Washington fears Gaddafi may use mustard gas and other chemical-weapons agents against anti-government protestors. The newspaper quoted US officials as saying Tripoli also maintains control of aging Scud B missiles, as well as 1,000 metric tons of uranium yellowcake and vast amounts of conventional weapons.
'Actions violate international norms.' Obama and Clinton (Photo: Reuters)
According to WSJ, "current and former US officials said in interviews that Washington's counterproliferation operations against Libya over the past decade have scored gains, in particular the dismantling of Tripoli's nascent nuclear-weapons program and its Scud C missile stockpiles. But the level of instability in Libya, and Col. Gaddafi's history of brutality, continues to make the US focus on the arms and chemical agents that remain, they said."
One official was quoted as saying, "When you have a guy who's as irrational as Gaddafi with some serious weapons at his disposal, it's always a concern. But we haven't yet seen him move to use any kind of mustard gas or chemical weapon" during the unrest.
Meanwhile, Al Qaeda's North African wing has condemned Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and expressed solidarity with protesters revolting against his rule, the SITE Intelligence Group quoted it as saying on Thursday.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) accused Gaddafi of hiring African mercenaries and ordering aircraft to fire on protestors, SITE said, citing a jihadist statement issued on Thursday.
AQIM urged Muslim scholars, thinkers and journalists to support the Libyan people in their uprising.
"We were pained by the carnage and the cowardly massacres carried out by the killer of innocents Gaddafi against our people and our unarmed Muslim brothers who only came to lift his oppression, his disbelief, his tyranny and his might," AQIM was quoted as saying in the statement.
"We only came out to defend you against these despots who usurped your rights, plundered your wealth, and prevented you from having the minimum requirements of a dignified life and the simplest meanings of freedom and human dignity," AQIM said.
The group, under pressure from Algerian security forces in the north, moved some of its operations to the desert area straddling Niger, Mali, Algeria and Mauritania where the vast expanses and porous borders have provided it with a safe haven.
Massive protests have swept through Arab countries in past weeks, threatening Gaddafi's four-decade rule after toppling the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.
"We call upon the Muslim Libyan people to have steadfastness and patience, and we incite them to continue their struggle and revolution and to escalate it to oust the criminal tyrant," the group said.
Also on Thursday, the Libyan People's Committee for General Security called on protesters to surrender their weapons and offered rewards for those who inform on protest leaders, in a statement broadcast live on Libyan TV.
Libyan security has cracked down on anti-government protesters and fighting has spread to the capital Tripoli after erupting in Libya's oil-producing east last week with no signs of Gaddafi stepping down after 41 years in power.
"He who submits his weapon and shows remorse will be exempted from being pursued legally. The committee calls on citizens to cooperate and inform on those who led on the youth or supplied them with money, equipment or intoxicating substances and hallucinatory pills," the statement said.
The committee also said those cooperating would be given money.
"A lucrative monetary reward will be given to anyone who contributes or informs on them," the statement, read out by a Libyan army officer, said on television monitored in Cairo.
Reuters contributed to the report
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