U.S. says no-fly zone effectively in place over Libya

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 3:58 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer said on Sunday that U.S. and allied forces have effectively established a no-fly zone over Libya and halted an offensive by Muammar Gaddafi's forces on rebels in Benghazi.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" that air strikes that began Saturday "took out" Gaddafi's air defenses and hit Libyan air fields while Western forces established combat air patrols over the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"Operations yesterday went very well," Mullen said. "He (Gaddafi) hasn't had aircraft or helicopters flying the last couple days. So effectively that no-fly zone has been put in place."

But Mullen emphasized that the mission was narrowly focused on protecting civilians and aiding humanitarian efforts under a U.N. Security Council resolution, and not on ousting Gaddafi from power.

Mullen also said he has seen no reports of civilian casualties resulting from Western air strikes.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Paul Simao)