US fighter crashes
A US official says both the crew of an F-15 fighter jet that crashed in Libya are safe and back in American hands.
The official, speaking last night on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the record, said a Marine Corps Osprey search and rescue aircraft retrieved the pilot. He says the second crew member, a weapon’s officer, was recovered by Libyan rebel forces and is now in US hands.
The crash occurred on Monday night at 2130 GMT ( 0730 AEST yesterday) after what the military says was an equipment malfunction. Its exact location was not given.
‘‘ A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle is down in Libya, there is some reporting it is down as a result of hostile fire, but at this time there is no indication that it was brought down by enemy fire,’’ US Africa Command Kenneth Fidler said. He confirmed the plane remained on the ground in Libya, however he refused to say what action, if any, would be taken to recover it.
Western forces pounded strongholds of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi f or a third night but doubts grew yesterday over the next stage of the campaign and where it is leading.
General Carter Ham, chief of the US Africa Command said the strikes begun on Saturday night could diminish, but the UN-mandated nofly zone would be spread to the whole country.
Fighting continued on the ground, however, as t he rebels f i ghting Gaddafi’s forces for more than a month said they were under intense attack in their enclave of Misrata near Tripoli.
And despite the destruction by coalition warplanes of dozens of Libyan army tanks in the east of the country, the amateur rebel fighters were beaten off as they tried to retake the town of Ajdabiya.
General Ham said that US forces had no mission to support a ground offensive by the rebels, who are still weak and disorganised compared with Gaddafi’s army.