Italy assigns eight combat aircraft for Libya air strikes

April 28th, 2011 - 3:24 am ICT by IANS  

F-16 Rome, April 28 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Eight Italian combat aircraft will be directly involved in air strikes against forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said Wednesday.

The strike group comprises four Tornado fighter jets and four AV8 Harrier attack aircraft.

“The planes and the pilots are ready and will be assigned to take part in air strikes immediately,” La Russa announced at a meeting with Italian lawmakers.

An additional four Italian F-16 fighters are taking part in patrolling the Libyan skies in line with the UN-authorised enforcement of a no-fly zone over the North African country.

The Italian defence minister insisted that NATO air strikes were “absolutely necessary” to continue applying pressure on the Gaddafi regime.

A total of 14 of the 28 NATO countries are taking part in the operation Unified Protector in Libya, which includes air strikes, a no-fly zone and naval enforcement of an arms embargo.

The alliance has stepped up air strikes around Tripoli and four other major cities in recent days.

Despite dozens of sorties carried out by NATO aircraft against Gaddafi’s forces, the government troops maintain their combat capability and continue to pound poorly-equipped rebels with heavy artillery and rocket fire.

–IANS/RIA Novosti
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