UPDATED: Norwegian fighter jets bombed new targets in Libya during the weekend, as they took part in additional rounds of armed assaults that started Friday. Political support for Norway’s participation in the UN-backed international coalition trying to contain Libya’s regime remains high.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Saturday morning that two F16 fighter jets from the Norwegian Air Force took off from their base on Crete at around 10pm Friday. They flew over Libya and bombed an air force base, reported NRK, with the goal of damaging or destroying the Libyan air force’s ability to bomb its opposition within the country.
Norwegian military officials claimed the bombing resulted in no civilian casualties, nor, they claim, did an earlier attack Friday afternoon. In that mission, two F16s were sent over Libya and they fired three laser-guided bombs at Libyan tanks on the ground in the northern part of the country. Eight more bombings took place during the day on Saturday, reported NRK.
“Our personnel is well-trained and well-educated,” military spokesman Øystein Kvarving told NRK. “They took the time they needed to assure themselves that there were no civilians in the vicinity of the targets.”
Norway’s first fighter-jet flights over Libya on Wednesday involved no bombing. The bombing raids that Norwegian F16s have now carried out are necessary, claim Norwegian defense officials, to achieve the UN Security Council’s goals of protecting Libyan civilians from the regime of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He has vowed to wipe out opposition to his regime.
The goal, say Norwegian officials, was not to kill but to destroy Gadhafi’s military equipment that could be used against his own people. The tanks are defined as targets because they can threaten Libyan civilians.
Support remains high
Political support for Norway’s involvement in the international coalition remains high, even within the anti-NATO Socialist Left party (SV), which was holding its annual national meeting this weekend.
SV leader Kristin Halvorsen, a longtime critic of NATO, met little opposition from within her own ranks when she strongly backed the government’s decision to join the effort to support the UN resolution. Halvorsen also has publicly supported the bombing that support entails.
While some SV veterans said they were worried about the bombings and any sign the party was moving away from its anti-militaristic foundation, most others agreed Norway’s military involvement was necessary and justifiable.
Meetings in London and Addis Ababa
Halvorsen’s government colleague, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, will be attending a meeting in London on Tuesday to discuss the operation in Libya, reports news bureau NTB. The meeting will be attended by foreign ministers from the countries involved in the operation, and will focus on measures to stop Gadhafi’s attacks on civilians.
Meanwhile, a state secretary from Norway’s foreign ministry, Espen Barth Eide, was in Ethiopia’s capital over the weekend to attend a meeting of the African Union, which also is discussing the crisis in Libya. Gadhafi has sent a delegation to the meeting but Libyan opposition forces had not as of Friday.
Officials from several African countries are taking part in the meeting along with representatives from the European Union, the UN and the Arab League. Barth Eide, a veteran Norwegian diplomat and military expert, was attending as an observer, reports NTB.