US aircraft engage Libyan coastguard vessel

AP News
Posted: Mar 29, 2011 6:40 AM
US aircraft engage Libyan coastguard vessel

U.S. aircraft have fired on a Libyan coast guard vessel, forcing it to limp to shore, after it launched missiles at merchant ships in the port of Misrata, U.S military officials said Tuesday.

A U.S. Navy P-C3 Maritime Patrol aircraft fired at the Vittoria after multiple explosions were seen near the Libyan port Monday evening, according to Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn statement.

The 12-meter patrol vessel "was hit and no longer operational, and forced to beach near the port," Lt. Nathan Potter told The Associated Press in a phone interview from aboard the USS Mount Whitney.

"The purpose of firing onto the vessel was to stop them from firing into the port, harming civilians and damaging other vessels" Potter said.

He added that the U.S. military was in the process of assessing the damage the Libyan vessel had caused, including whether any civilians had been harmed, or if any vessels in the port had sustained damage.

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt said it also fired on two smaller Libyan vessels traveling with the larger ship, destroying one and forcing the other to be abandoned, the statement said.

Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force providing operational and tactical command of U.S. military forces supporting the response to unrest in Libya.