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Monday, June 6, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

NATO deploys attack helicopters in air war against Gadhafi

CAIRO — NATO has expanded its air war against the Libyan regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.


Officials said NATO has begun using attack helicopters in missions against the Gadhafi regime. They said the use of advanced helicopters would expand targets and ensure accuracy in strikes against regime facilities.

"As long as Gadhafi continues to abuse his people, we will continue and intensify our efforts to stop him from doing so," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

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On June 4, NATO launched helicopter strikes in Libya, Middle East Newsline reported. British and French attack helicopters, including the U.S.-origin AH-64 Apache, fired air-to-ground rockets that struck radars and other targets in the oil port of Brega, which once belonged to the rebel movement. On the following day, the helicopters targeted barracks of the Libyan Army.

"We have to deal with them [Gadhafi] as effectively as we can and that entails the use of Apache helicopters," Hague told a news conference in the rebel capital of Benghazi.

Officials said the use of helicopters, which marked the first operations of British Army Apaches from warships, marked an expansion of the air war against Gadhafi. They said NATO has so far not agreed to deploy ground troops to topple the regime in Tripoli, but did not rule out helicopter support for the rebels. So far, the rebels have been unable to dislodge Gadhafi's troops from their positions.

"The Apaches were tasked with precision strikes against a regime radar installation and a military checkpoint, both located around Brega," British Maj. Gen. Nick Pope, the communications officer on the Chief of the Defense Staff, said. "In the same area, Royal Air Force ground attack aircraft destroyed another military installation, whilst a separate RAF mission successfully attacked two ammunition bunkers at the large Waddan depot in central Libya."

Last week, NATO extended its mission in Libya for another 90 days.

Several members, including Britain and France, have decided to escalate attacks in a drive to oust Gadhafi over the next few weeks.

"We welcome any measures that would expedite the departure of Gadhafi and his regime," Libyan Transitional Council chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil said.

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