British jets hit Libyan regime ship near Zawiyah: military

18th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

British warplanes sank a vessel being used by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi near the strategically vital port of Zawiyah, the defence ministry said Thursday.

A Royal Air Force patrol identified on Wednesday a group of of pro-regime soldiers who had been fighting at a key oil refinery near Zawiyah, Major General Nick Pope, spokesman for the chief of Defence Staff, said in a statement.

"The armed vehicles on which they had relied to mount their attacks had been taken out of action by a NATO strike, but they were observed to use a tugboat, which had been commandeered as a naval patrol craft, in an attempt to redeploy to new positions along the coast," Pope said.

"Since it was clear from their actions that these troops continued to pose a threat to the local population, the RAF patrol engaged the ship," he added.

"Although a challenging target, small and under way at sea, a direct hit was scored with a laser guided Paveway bomb which sank the vessel."

Libyan rebels said they had seized the refinery, the only one in the west of the country, on Thursday. They say they are also in control of most of the port of Zawiyah itself.

British jets also carried out "precision strikes" on pro-Kadhafi facilities at Sabratah, near Zawiyah, including a commando base which had been used by regime forces "launch numerous reprisals against the local people," Pope said.

"The base suffered severe damage and it is reported that it is now in the hands of the Free Libyan Forces and permanently removed as a threat to the safety of the town's population," he added.

Pope also denied what he said were claims by Kadhafi that NATO forces had attacked the famed Roman ruins of Leptis Magna near Tripoli.

"This is nonsense," Pope said.

"The RAF did attack, in the early hours of Monday morning, a psychological warfare centre over a mile from Leptis Magna. All four Paveway guided bombs were observed to score direct hits on their proper target."

© 2011 AFP

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