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NATO Hits Libyan Warships


Smoke billows from a ship on fire at the seaport in Tripoli, May 20, 2011

Smoke billows from a ship on fire at the seaport in Tripoli, May 20, 2011

NATO says it has hit eight warships used by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in a series of airstrikes.

A NATO statement said the vessels targeted were in the ports of Sirte, Al Khums and the Libyan capital, Tripoli. An alliance official [Libyan operations Deputy Commander Rear Admiral Russell Harding] said NATO had "no choice but to take decisive action" after pro-Gadhafi forces carried out mining operations and escalated their use of maritime force.

British aircraft went after Al Khums, where a British military spokesman, Major General John Lorimer, said they hit two corvette warships and successfully targeted a facility constructing inflatable boats. The spokesman said pro-Gadhafi forces have used the boats in efforts to mine the waters around the rebel-held city of Misrata and attack vessels in the area.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials said they have sent the Libyan rebels more than 120,000 military food rations that meet Muslim dietary standards and will deliver more aid in the days to come.

The meals were sent to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The U.S. Defense Department said it also is sending non-lethal aid, such as sandbags, uniforms, tents and protective vests.

On Thursday, NATO said its airstrikes had significantly degraded Libya's pro-government forces. Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen predicted sustained military and political pressure - along with opposition support - would lead to the collapse of Gadhafi's regime.

In a speech on the Middle East and North Africa Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the longtime Libyan leader's departure is inevitable.

A Libyan government spokesman said President Obama is "delusional." The spokesman accused the U.S. leader of believing "lies" spread by his own government and media. He said it is not Obama who decides whether Gadhafi leaves, but the Libyan people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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