Combat helicopters enter Libya fray
Benghazi - Attack helicopters struck Muammar Gaddafi’s forces on Saturday, as the Nato-led war entered a new phase.
"Attack helicopters under Nato command were used for the first time," the military alliance said in a statement.
"The targets struck included military vehicles, military equipment and fielded forces" of the Kadhafi regime, it said, without detailing where the strikes had taken place.
British Apache choppers and French Gazelles and Tigres were deployed, the two countries said. The Apaches returned safely to a carrier, Britain's defence ministry said, also without disclosing the targets.
The helicopters destroyed a radar post and a checkpoint near the coastal oil city of Brega in the overnight strikes, according to Britain's domestic news agency PA.
The attacks were launched as part of the aerial campaign to protect Libyan civilians from Kadhafi's forces in line with a UN resolution that barred ground troops.
British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the use of the Apaches showed the willingness of the coalition to "keep the pressure up" on Gaddafi.
"We made to Colonel Gaddafi very clear that there is a very quick way to stop the current Nato activity and that's for him to go and stop waging war on his own people," Fox told journalists at a Singapore security conference.
"We will continue with the methods we have to degrade his command and control, to degrade his supplies so that we can carry out what we have been asked to do under the UN resolution."
A spokesperson for France's military chiefs, Thierry Brukhard, said the copters destroyed about 20 targets and drew light arms fire from forces on the ground but were not damaged.
In its latest operational update released on Saturday, Nato said it hit a military camp and three command and control nodes in and around Brega.