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Armed unmanned drones deployed in Libya

Obama approves missile strikes on military targets using unmanned aircraft, as rebel forces seize a Tunisian border post.

Libyan children cross the Libya-Tunisian border in an effort to escape fierce fighting
Libyan children cross the Libya-Tunisian border in an effort to escape fierce fighting
Image: Pier Paolo Cito/AP/Press Association Images

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama has given the green light for the use of unmanned predator drones to attack the forces of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The aircraft, armed with missiles, are described as “uniquely suited for urban areas” because of their ability to get lower to the ground to identify targets.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has denied that the use of the drones is evidence of “mission creep” and says that there are still no plans for a ground invasion in Libya. The first aircraft were deployed yesterday but were turned back due to bad weather conditions.

There have been suggestions that rebel forces have been warned by NATO to stay away from military targets, and during a US State Department press briefing in Washington yesterday a spokesperson said “I think NATO has been quite clear all along to say that it’s going to keep the pressure up, that it’s going to attack where it can attack and that that includes targets on the ground and the protection of civilians”.

The US has also pledged $25 million in non-lethal military assistance to rebel forces in Libya, which Robert Gates says will go towards things like uniforms.

Yesterday rebels seized control of a Libya-Tunisia border crossing, in an area where pro-Gaddafi forces have, until now, been maintaining control.

What is a drone?

The US military is currently using drones along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The latest attack is now believed to have killed 26 people after five missiles were fired.

The Predator drones are unmanned aircraft which can be remotely guided for up to 20 hours. The drone carries video surveillance equipment and can be used to identify and eliminate targets without putting air personnel at risk.

About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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