Western Allies Launch Military Campaign Against Ghadafi
BENGHAZI, Libya - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said allied air forces had gone into action on Saturday over Libya and were preventing Moammar Gadhafi's from forces attacking the rebel city of Benghazi.
"Our planes are already preventing air attacks on the city," Sarkozy said adding that military action supported by France, Britain, the United States and Canada and backed by Arab nations could be halted if Gadhafi stopped his forces attacking.
French fighter jets, flying reconnaissance missions across the north African nation, entered Libyan airspace to ensure that Gadhafi's forces would not take any action there. Sarkozy said "our determination is total."
On the ground, Gadhafi's forces had pushed into Benghazi, defying world demands for an immediate cease-fire and forcing rebels to retreat.
As fighting raged, a warplane was shot down over Benghazi and Sky News correspondent Emma Hurd — who was in Benghazi but joined a growing exodus fleeing to the east — said there were cheers from the rebels when it crashed following the sound of anti-aircraft fire.
NBC News' Jim Maceda told the TODAY show that it later became clear the jet was one of those captured by the rebels. He said it was not clear if it was shot down by Gadhafi's forces, rebels on the ground by mistake or simply had suffered a mechanical failure.
Meantime, hundreds of cars full of civilians headed out of Benghazi, a Reuters correspondent said.
"Do we have to wait till he (Gadhafi) kills us all before the (world) acts. We are very disappointed," said Adel Mansoura, an air traffic controller fleeing with his family.
"When we heard the U.N. resolution, we were very happy and thought we had our freedom but now we have been left on our own to the killers," he said at a petrol station where dozens of other cars lined for fuel as they fled.
The head of the rebel National Libyan Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said the international community must act swiftly to protect civilians from Gadhafi's forces.
"Now there is a bombardment by artillery and rockets on all districts of Benghazi," he told Al Jazeera television. "The international community is late in intervening to save civilians from Gadhafi's forces."
"Today in Benghazi there will be a catastrophe if the international community does not implement the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council," he said. "We appeal to the international community, to the all the free world, to stop this tyranny from exterminating civilians."
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