Artillery Fire Reported In Libya
GUY RAZ, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKENDS ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.
(Soundbite of gunfire)
RAZ: These are the sounds our team in Tripoli has recorded in the last few hours: artillery, gunfire and explosions. We'll check in on the latest from the Libyan capital in a moment, but first to our correspondent at the Pentagon, NPR's Tom Bowman.
Tom, you just returned from a briefing at the Defense Department. Lay this out for us. What did you find out?
TOM BOWMAN: Well, Guy, we were just briefed by Vice Admiral William Gortney. He's director of the Joint Staff. And he told us that as of this time, Colonel Gadhafi's radars and missile defenses have been, quote, "significantly degraded."
And he said there's no new air activity. Basically, Gadhafi's forces are not putting up any aircraft, even helicopters. And he's also saying that they're not even turning on their radar. There's no radar emissions, he said.
And also, the important city of Benghazi to the east - that's, of course, a last rebel stronghold. The coalition, led by the U.S., have been attacking armored troop movements of Gadhafi's forces around Benghazi. He said Benghazi is totally safe at this point, but they've hit Libyan troops around there quite hard, and there's a great deal of confusion from those Libyan troops now.
But he didn't know if there's any advancement of any of Gadhafi's forces in other areas of the country. He said, I don't have that intelligence at this time on that, any troop movements.
RAZ: So right now, U.S., British and French planes are not meeting any resistance at all?
BOWMAN: Well, there's some resistance. And as our reporters on the ground in Tripoli have recorded, there's some anti-aircraft artillery fire. Admiral Gortney was asked about that. He said basically, we're just avoiding the AAA strikes right now, and we're going after the more serious air defenses, surface-to-air missiles that are a real threat to the pilots. They're just avoiding some of that anti-aircraft artillery.
RAZ: Tom, what about Gadhafi? Is he a target?
BOWMAN: Well, I asked Admiral Gortney that, and he said Gadhafi is not a target. He said, we are not going after Gadhafi. He said, what we're doing is setting up a no-fly zone, as the U.N. asked us to do. We're also preventing any Libyan troop movements toward the rebel-held city of Benghazi. But he said Gadhafi is not a target.
RAZ: Briefly, Tom, in the last 30 seconds, what is the timeframe here? How long is this expected to last?
BOWMAN: Well, he said at least several more days for taking out the radar and air defenses. He didn't know exactly how much longer it would take. The U.S. is still in charge of this. There's an - Admiral Sam Locklear is the admiral out in the Mount Whitney, his command ship, and he said they hope to transfer from U.S. authority in the coming days. But he had no real timeframe.
RAZ: That's NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman, speaking to me from the Defense Department.
BOWMAN: You're welcome, Guy.
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