|Page (1) of 1 - 10/21/11||email article||print page|
Officials say US drone fired into Gadhafi convoy in Libya; details of how he died still murky
WASHINGTON (AP) ' With the end of the Libya mission in sight, U.S. military officials were looking ahead Friday to where they might shift aircraft and drones that had been involved in the operations.
Also, as international leaders were trying to sort out details of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's death, they were bracing for a difficult transition as disparate rebel groups try to form a unified government.
U.S. officials confirmed Friday that an American Predator drone took part in the airstrike that hit the convoy carrying Gadhafi, but it remains unclear how he got his fatal wounds.
The officials said the Predator fired on the convoy as it was fleeing Sirte, and French aircraft launched guided missiles. According to most accounts two vehicles in the convoy were hit.
Gadhafi was wounded when captured, and later died. He had gunshot wounds to his head, chest and stomach.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operations. NATO's top commander said Friday he will recommend ending the alliance's 7-month mission in Libya.
Currently about 70 U.S. aircraft are in Libya as well as a number of ships, three unmanned Global Hawk surveillance drones and several Predators assigned to the Libya mission. So far, none of the aircraft or ships have been moved or taken out of the mission, but many are likely to move on fairly quickly.
There is fervent demand particularly for the drones, both at the battlefronts of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in other hotspots around the world, including Africa, South America and the Asia-Pacific region.
A senior U.S. military official said Friday that a number of Islamic extremists are in Libya and probably will play a role in the new government. Military leaders are concerned about former insurgents in the country who reportedly had renounced extremism but had strong ties to al-Qaida leaders.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters, said the U.S. military also remains worried about weapons proliferation in Libya, amid continuing suspicions that thousands of shoulder-launched missiles have gone missing and could end up in the hands of terrorists.
Libya was believed to have had about 20,000 of the missiles, known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS, in its arsenal before civil war began in March.
The Obama administration froze some $37 billion in Gadhafi assets this year. It has released $700 million so far to the National Transitional Council.
NATO warplanes have flown about 26,000 sorties, including more than 9,600 strike missions. They destroyed Libya's air defenses and more than 1,000 tanks, vehicles and guns, as well as Gadhafi's command and control networks. The estimated cost of the Libya military operation as of Sept. 30 was about $1.1 billion, which includes military missions, munitions, Defense Department supplies and humanitarian assistance.
In addition, the U.S. sold participating allies about $250 million worth of ammunition, spare parts, fuel and other support.