NATO's Libya Mission 'Accomplished' after Gaddafi Death, to End Oct 31

World | October 21, 2011, Friday // 21:46|  views

NATO plans to end its seven-month air and sea mission in Libya on October 31 but will issue a formal decision next week after consulting the United Nations and Libya`s interim authorities, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday. EPA/BGNES

NATO's military mission in Libya will be finished by October 31, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced a day after Libyan rebels captured and killed former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Declaring mission accomplished, Rasmussen underlined that the decision is provisional, pending a final decision in the coming weeks, as cited by DPA. He spoke after NATO ambassadors met in Brussels to deliberate the possible end to the military mission.

Ambassadors from the alliance's 28 member states gave preliminary approval to wrapping up Operation Unified Protector by Oct. 31, seven months after it was launched to carry out a United Nations mandate to protect civilians from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

Until that date, Fogh Rasmussen said, NATO would continue to monitor the situation in Libya and retain the capacity to respond to any residual threats posed by armed supporters of the former Libyan dictator.

NATO has carried out a protective air mission for civilian protesters since the end of March and maintained a sea blockade against the government of Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed on Thursday.

Since 31 March, under Operation United Protector there have been more than 26 000 NATO air sorties, almost 10 000 of them involving missile strikes of some kind. UK jets were responsible for 2 000 attack missions. More than 3 000 vessels have been boarded to enforce the arms embargo, but only 11 ships have been denied passage to Libya.

"Now it is the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to deal with the internal Libyan affairs," Rasmussen said. "We have conducted our operation with the aim of defending civilians against attack, in accordance with the United Nations resolution."

Gaddafi's capture and death came sometime after his convoy was attacked by NATO warplanes outside his hometown of Sirte. Rasmussen repeated NATO's assertion that it had not set out to assassinate Gaddafi and did not know of his presence in the column of armed vehicles, which were bombed because they constituted a potential threat to civilians.

"Such convoys were legitimate military targets," he said.

Earlier Friday, NATO released more details of the attack on Gaddafi's convoy, which damaged or destroyed nearly a dozen vehicles out of a cluster of about 75 maneuvering around Surt.

A NATO warplane first struck about 8:30 a.m. Thursday after noting the convoy leaving the coastal city "at high speed." The vehicles were "carrying a substantial amount of weapons and ammunition" that could be used against civilians, NATO said in a prepared statement.

Eleven vehicles were attacked; one was destroyed. About 20 others then broke off from the main column and pushed south, prompting a second airstrike that damaged or destroyed 10 of the vehicles.

"At the time of the strike, NATO did not know that Gaddafi was in the convoy," the alliance's statement said, adding: "We later learned from open sources and Allied intelligence that Gaddafi was in the convoy and that the strike likely contributed to his capture."

The United Nations' office for human rights has called for an official investigation into Gaddafi's subsequent death.

As for the details of how Gaddafi died, Rasmussen said it was for the Libyan authorities to decide whether a special investigation was needed.

"I would expect them to live up to the spirit the (Transitional National Council) itself has called for, namely democracy and transparency," he said.

Rasmussen said there was no knowledge of the whereabouts of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of the late tyrant who fighters said had been arrested in the coastal city of Zlitan, some 300 kilometres west of Sirte, where his father was arrested.

He expressed confidence that the transitional authorities would deal with internal Libyan affairs, noting that the TNC "has called for freedom and democracy."

"This is the reason why I take it for granted that the new authorities will live up to their international responsibility ... and the basic principles of democracy including the respect for the rule of law and human rights," he said.

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Tags: Muammar Gaddafi, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO, rebels, Libya, Sirte, Tripoli, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, convoy, air strikes, sorties, NATO Secretary General, transitional National Council, United Protector


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