Overnight, NATO aircraft hit pro-Qadhafi warships, striking eight vessels.
“All NATO’s targets are military in nature and are directly linked to the Qadhafi regime’s systematic attacks on the Libyan people,” said Rear-Admiral Russell Harding, Deputy Commander Operation Unified Protector. “Given the escalating use of naval assets, NATO had no choice but to take decisive action to protect the civilian population of Libya and NATO forces at sea,” he further added.
Over the past couple of weeks we have witnessed indiscriminate mining and the escalating use of force by pro-Qadhafi maritime forces. This has directly disrupted the safe flow of desperately needed humanitarian assistance and put NATO forces at risk. This development of pro-Qadhafi tactics has also demonstrated a clear intent to attack NATO forces.
Last night, NATO took deliberate action in carefully planned and coordinated responses to demonstrate our resolve to protect the civilian population of Libya, using appropriate and proportionate force. “All the vessels targeted last night were naval warships with no civilian utility,” said Rear-Admiral Harding.
On April 29th, pro-Qadhafi forces used pro-Qadhafi maritime assets to mine the entrance to the port of Misrata. On a further three occasions, pro-Qadhafi maritime assets have been intercepted by NATO ships. This included an incident where NATO interdicted a booby-trapped vessel leading to the discovery and subsequent destruction of one tonne of explosives at sea.
Since the start of NATO’s mission, we have been vocal and pro-active in instructing pro-Qadhafi forces to lay down their arms. We have communicated our desire for them to move away from military equipment, military installations and maritime assets.
NATO has constantly adapted to the rapidly changing and dynamic situation in Libya and at sea. This is a complex campaign, which is being conducted within the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973. This mandate legally authorised the use of all necessary measures to protect the civilian population of Libya.