US begins drone strikes on Libya*
April 22, 2011
Unmanned predator drones have started to patrol Libyan airspace.
US President Barack Obama has approved the use of armed predator drones to attack targets in Libya as the UN warns about the humanitarian situation.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says American drones have carried out their first mission in Libya on Thursday, The Associated Press reported.
Gates says the unmanned predator drones are an example of the military capabilities that the US can contribute to the NATO-led military campaign in Libya.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General James Cartwright said that the predator drones would allow NATO to strike targets that “have started to dig themselves into defensive positions.”
He also added that the drones are well suited for urban areas because of their ability to minimize “collateral damage” and to fly all day, giving them an “extended persistence on the target.”
The US plans to maintain at least two predator drones continuously in Libyan airspace, which carry Hellfire missiles and can stay in the air for 24 hours.
“We are trying to provide enough space, and in order to protect the opposition from Gaddafi’s military to the extent we can, we are reducing his military capabilities,” Gates added.
The US already uses unmanned aircraft to carry out attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas, near the border with Afghanistan. Washington claims the attacks target militants, but most of the victims are civilians.