NATO grounding Qaddafi and Rebel air forces

In enforcing its no-fly zone, NATO has been accused by some of favoring the rebel cause. However, the alliance demonstrated this weekend that the ban applies to both sides

CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports that enforcing the no-fly zone means NATO has to has to keep rebel planes from flying too.

Two Mig-23 fighters are all the air power the rebels have in Benghazi. They're not enough to win the fight against Qaddafi's forces, but they can make a difference. The pilots say they're willing to go up any time NATO gives them permission to do so.

Complete coverage: Anger in the Arab World

One pilot, who doesn't want to be identified, says he had permission yesterday when he took off in this Mig-23 from the Benina air base outside Benghazi to bomb loyalist positions near Ajdabiya.

"We fly normal and we come back. I have permission for takeoff and landing," the pilot said.

The flight request was sent from the rebel military council to NATO, according to air traffic controller Ali El-Shamekh, who added that the pilot was going to shoot at Qaddafi's forces.

The pilot says he fired 128 rounds, and hit a fuel truck and two other vehicles carrying Qaddafi's forces.

Yet NATO disputes his account telling CBS News it "did not give the pilot permission to fly," according to a NATO spokesman.

It says an AWACS plane detected the Mig when it took off and called in two fighter planes, which forced the Mig to return to base.

NATO is sensitive to criticism that it is only enforcing the no-fly zone against Khadafy's forces. It claims this is the first interception it had to make since the no-fly zone was imposed. But it is difficult to reconcile this pilot's account with NATO's version of events.

Popular

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

On Twitter

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download