A coalition of the United States and four other nations launched military action against Libya on Saturday, officials said, as the West tries to force Muammar Gaddafi from power.
A U.S. official told reporters on condition of anonymity that a coalition including the United States, France, Britain, Canada and Italy had begun launching strikes on Libya designed to cripple Muammar Gaddafi's air defenses.
At least some Arab nations are expected to join the coalition later, the official said.
A second U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said missiles were launched from a warship against Libyan targets.
U.S. forces and planes will take part in the operation, called "Odyssey Dawn," that will mainly target air defenses around the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Misrata.
Some 25 coalition ships, including three U.S. submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles, are stationed in the Mediterranean, a military slide showed. Five U.S. surveillance planes are also in the area, it showed.
Listen to what Libyan Government Spokesperson Mussa Ibrahim says about the invasion
You have to ask yourself: who are the Libyan rebels?
You don't have to take the stance that Muammar Gaddafi is some kind of saint, but if a revolutionary rebel force in your country is destabilizing the "order", disturbing the peace and causing general chaos, shouldn't the government have the right to defend itself?
Listen to what Libyan Government Spokesperson Mussa Ibrahim is saying in the clip above. Ibrahim is extending an invitation to the countries that are supposed to represent an "open society" to come look for themselves and let the experts judge the situation. Is this being done?
Judging by the fruits of the western governments and their track record of illegal wars, unjust invasions, manipulation and propaganda you have to ask yourself: why are ALL the major politicians from ALL of the "coalition" countries and others in FULL agreement with each other when it comes to an invasion of Libya. National sovereignty is no more.
Why invade Libya on the 19th of March?
The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was on the 19th of March. There have been others that speculate that this is connected with Purim, a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire.
Keep in mind that warfare is symbolic, psychological and occult.
The UK, the US and France have begun attacking Libya as enforcement of the UN-mandated no-fly zone gets under way.
Pentagon officials say the US and the UK have fired more than 110 missiles.
Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has said he will open arms depots to the people and the interests of Mediterranean countries will be in danger from now on.
Western planes bombed targets in the capital, Tripoli, said the AFP news agency, quoting witnesses and state TV.
Earlier on Saturday, pro-Gaddafi forces attacked the rebel stronghold of Benghazi despite declaring a ceasefire a day earlier.
A French plane fired the first shots against Libyan government targets at 1645 GMT, destroying a number of military vehicles, according to a military spokesman.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that British planes are in action over Libya.
US President Barack Obama, speaking during a visit to Brazil, said the US was taking "limited military action" as part of a "broad coalition".
"We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy," he said.
He repeated that no US ground troops would take part.
Shortly after the bombing started, a Libyan official went on TV to denounce the "barbarian aggression".
Col Gaddafi himself made a brief speech on Libyan radio, calling on people to resist.
"Civilian and military targets in the air and sea will be liable to serious danger in the Mediterranean," he said.
"Arms depots are now open and the masses are being equipped with all sorts of weapons in defence of Libya's independence, unity and honour," the Libyan leader warned.
A British submarine has fired a number of missiles at Libyan air defence targets, the Ministry of Defence said.
Mr Cameron said that launching military action against Libya was "necessary, legal and right".
Libyan state TV reported that what it called the "crusader enemy" had bombed civilian areas of Tripoli, as well as fuel storage tanks supplying the western city of Misrata.
Sources in Tripoli told BBC Arabic that the attacks on the city had so far targeted the eastern areas of Sawani, Airport Road, and Ghasheer. These are all areas believed to host military bases.
The air strikes on Misrata targeted a military airbase, the Reuters news agency reported, quoting two residents who denied the state TV reports that fuel stores were hit.
The cruise missiles were fired from one British submarine and a number of American destroyers and subs, said a Pentagon official.
The missiles hit more than 20 air defence sites along the Mediterranean coast, said Navy Vice Adm William E Gortney.
The action came hours after Western and Arab leaders met in Paris to agree how to enforce the UN resolution, which allows "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from forces loyal to Col Gaddafi.
French planes also flew reconnaissance missions over "all Libyan territory", military sources in Paris said earlier.
In addition, Canada is sending warplanes to the region, while Italy has offered the use of its military bases. A naval blockade against Libya is also being put in place.
The international community was intervening to stop the "murderous madness" of Col Gaddafi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.
"In Libya, the civilian population, which is demanding nothing more than the right to choose their own destiny, is in mortal danger," he warned. "It is our duty to respond to their anguished appeal."
Shortly after the airstrikes began, Libyan state TV said a French plane had been shot down near Tripoli. However, French military officials said all their planes had returned safely.
Col Gaddafi has ruled Libya for more than 40 years. An uprising against him began last month after long-time leaders of neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt were toppled.
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