French Air Power Begins and Ends Allied Campaign in Libya

French Air Force Mirage 2000 during an exercise named

From Gregory Viscusi and David Lerman, Bloomberg:  The NATO air campaign to oust Muammar Qaddafi began with French Mirage jets destroying a column of his tanks on the outskirts of Benghazi seven months ago.

Today, it was a French Mirage jet that fired to block Qaddafi’s escape from Sirte in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Libyan fighters then moved in and killed the man who had ruled their country for 42 years.

The French involvement in the war’s denouement was symbolic of the leading role President Nicolas Sarkozy has played since Libyan rebels first sought outside help for their revolution. . . .

“The end of Qaddafi was the work of Libyans in Libya,” French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said at a press conference today in Paris. “But French aviation was present from the start.”

Longuet said coalition planes today noticed “a convoy of several dozen four-by-four vehicles trying to force their way out of Sirte.”  A Dassault Aviation SA (AM) Mirage 2000 jet fired its cannon ahead of the convoy “to block it, not to destroy it,” Longuet said. NTC forces then closed in on the blocked convoy and Qaddafi was killed in the fighting, Longuet said.

From AFP:  Longuet told reporters in Paris that the convoy "was stopped from progressing as it sought to flee Sirte but was not destroyed by the French intervention".

Libyan fighters then intervened, destroying the vehicles, from which "they took out Colonel Gaddafi", he added.

From the AFP:  [Longuet] said a French Mirage-2000 "was informed by the integrated general staff (of NATO) of the need for an intervention to prevent this column from advancing".

He said the plane then intervened and managed to separate some vehicles from the convoy, which were then confronted by fighters from Libya’s National Transitional Council.

"In these clashes, vehicles were destroyed, people were wounded and killed and it was among them that … Gaddafi was a part," he said.   (photo: Getty)

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