'Air attacks stops Gaddafi forces from advancing to Benghazi'

"I assessed that our actions, to date, are generally achieving the intended objective. We have not observed Libyan military aircraft operating since the beginning of coalition military operations. Libyan naval vessels have returned to or have remained in port.

Since the initial strikes, we have detected no emissions from regime long- range, air-defense radars," General Carter F Ham, Commander of US Africa Command, said.

In a briefing to Pentagon reporters, Ham said air attacks have succeeded in stopping regime ground forces from advancing to Benghazi and they are now seeing ground forces moving southward from Benghazi.

"We will, of course, watch these ground force movements closely. Through a variety of reports, we know that regime ground forces that were in the vicinity of Benghazi now possess little will or capability to resume offensive operations," he said.

Ham said there is a very high level of commitment among coalition forces about civilian casualties. "Our actions today are focused on extending the no-fly zone southward, then westward from Benghazi. With the growing capabilities of the coalition, I anticipate the no-fly zone will soon extend to Brega, Misurata and then to Tripoli," Ham said.

Over the past 24 hours, US and British forces launched 12 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles targeting regime command-and-control facilities, a Scud surface-to- surface missile facility and a re-attack of an air-defense site which had previously been attacked, he said.

Coalition air forces from France, Spain, Italy, Denmark and the UK flew missions to sustain the no-fly zone over Benghazi to protect civilians from attack by regime ground forces and to conduct further reconnaissance.

Coalition naval vessels sustain their maritime patrols in support of the UN Security Council resolution direction to prevent the illegal shipments of arms to and from Libya, Ham said.

Responding to questions, Ham said that the coalition forces have been successful in significantly degrading the command-and-control capability of the Gaddafi regime. "Our mandate, our mission - is to protect the civilians from attack by the regime ground forces.

Our mission is not to support any opposition forces. So while we have reports from people who are reported to be in the opposition, there is no official communication or formal communication with those in this so-called opposition that are opposing the regime's ground forces," he said.

Ham said it is not their mandate to support the opposition forces.
"We protect civilians. I suspect some would argue that some within the opposition may be civilians. If they are attacked by regime forces, then we would be obliged, if we possess the capability, to try to protect them from attack. But we have no mission and no intent to provide close air support to the opposition," he argued.

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