Western air strikes pounded Muammar Gaddafi's defences and allied warplanes patrolled Libyan skies on Sunday, lifting the siege of Benghazi and allowing rebels to surge forward and retake lost ground.
The aerial assault stopped in its tracks the advance by Gaddafi's troops into Benghazi and left the burned and shattered remains of his tanks and troop carriers littering the main road outside the rebel stronghold. The charred bodies of at least 14 government soldiers lay scattered in the desert.
Gaddafi said on Sunday airstrikes on Libya by Western countries amounted to terrorism and said he would defeat his enemies.
In an address broadcast on state television, he said his country was preparing for a long war and that all Libyans were carrying weapons to defend the country.
"We will not leave our land and we will liberate it," he said. The television broadcast carried Gaddafi's voice, without showing any images of him.
"Who are you, Barbarians? We will defeat you. We will not die – you will die," he said.
"We are not afraid. Libya will rise against you and spread weapons to all the Libyan people and they will destroy all the British and American traitors and this entire Christian pact. Whoever cooperates with you will die," Gaddafi stated.
The Libyan leader noted that he has opened up the arms depots to Libyans, and said everyone is armed with "automatic weapons, mortars, bombs."
European and US forces unleashed warplanes and cruise missiles against Gaddafi's troops in the biggest Western military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Libyan health official said on Sunday the number of people killed as a result of Western air strikes overnight had risen to 64. Another 150 were reportedly wounded.
France sent an aircraft carrier towards Libya and its planes were over the country again on Sunday, defence officials said. Britain said its planes had targeted Libya's air defences mainly around the capital Tripoli.
Tomahawk missile fired from US warship (Photo: AP)
On the main road south from Benghazi, some 14 government tanks, 20 troop carriers, two trucks with multiple rocket launchers and dozens of pick-ups were all destroyed. Some still smouldered. Fourteen bodies lay next to the vehicles, though the scale of the bombardment made identifying bodies difficult as tyres burnt and munitions exploded in the flames.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN in an interview Sunday that United States and its allies are having some successes against Gaddafi's forces in Libya, but there is still a great deal to be done. .
According to Mullen, the international coalition can achieve its goals in Libya, but the chance that Gaddafi clings to power is "certainly potentially one outcome."
The goals of the military campaign in the North African nation "are limited and it isn't about seeing him go," the admiral said.
"We have halted him in the vicinity of Benghazi, which is where he was most recently on the march," he said, adding that Western forces had established combat air patrols over the city that would be extended westward toward Tripoli over time.
"The objective will be to attack those forces and ensure that they are unable to continue to attack the innocent civilians," Mullen said.
The Pentagon said in a statement that US Navy Growlers provided electronic support while AV-8B Harriers from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted air strikes against Gaddafi's ground forces and air defenses.
CBS News on its website said on Sunday that three US B-2 stealth bombers had dropped 40 bombs on a "major Libyan airfield" that was not further identified.
French planes fired the first shots on Saturday in a campaign to force Gaddafi's troops to cease fire and end attacks on civilians. The warplanes destroyed tanks and armored vehicles near the rebels' eastern stronghold, Benghazi.
US and British warships and submarines launched 110 Tomahawk missiles overnight against air defenses around the capital Tripoli and the western city of Misrata, which has been besieged by Gaddafi's forces, US military officials said.
They said US forces and planes were working with Britain, France, Canada and Italy in operation "Odyssey Dawn". Denmark said it had four fighter planes ready to join in on Sunday and was awaiting US instructions.
Russia called on Britain, France and the United States to stop air strikes against what it said were non-military targets in Libya, saying the attacks had caused civilian causalities.
"In that respect we call on countries involved to stop the non-selective use of force," Foreign Ministry's spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement Sunday.
Reuters, AP contributed to the report
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