WASHINGTON - International military forces are using words as well as weapons to try to weaken the grip of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi and urge his troops to turn against him.
They are dropping leaflets targeting government troops as well as flying a U.S. propaganda plane that broadcasts to forces of the North African nation, U.S. military officials said Monday.
The message: Refuse to obey Qaddafi's orders, stop fighting, go home to your families.
Although each day the Pentagon reports the number of bombs it has dropped in the week-old Libya intervention, it has said little about the information campaign blanketing the country.
But coalition planes have dropped leaflets a number of times, most recently Sunday near Qaddafi ground troops near Misrata, military officials said Monday on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the effort.
The U.S. also has broadcast messages to Libyan forces from the Air Force's EC-130 Commando Solo, a specially-modified Hercules transport that conducts information operations and psychological operations and broadcasts in AM, FM, high-frequency radio, TV and military communications bands.
Officials have acknowledged its use but given few details, except that it has broadcast messages in English and Arabic over Libya telling people to cease hostilities and abandon their weapons. Officials would not confirm the exact wording of the texts, but said the messages are aimed at urging pro-Qaddafi forces to avoid harming fellow countrymen and citing the U.N. resolution calling for the no-fly zone over the country.
Such operations have become common in military campaigns.
The flying radio and television broadcast mission was used to reach out to citizens of Grenada in the 1983 U.S. invasion that followed a military coup there. It helped persuade Iraqi soldiers to surrender in the Persian Gulf war of 1990-91 after Iraq invaded Kuwait. And the Defense Department also broadcast anti-Saddam Hussein messages over Iraq for months before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam but which officials said was to hunt for weapons of mass destruction.
Leaflets warning Iraqi soldiers not to fire at American aircraft and stressing Saddam's suppression of the Iraqi people also were dropped before the 2003 invasion.
In earlier years of the war in Afghanistan, the coalition dropped leaflets with pictures of burning World Trade Center towers accompanied by the words, "The coalition forces have come to Afghanistan to arrest those who were responsible for the terrorist attacks in the United States." It had a message to militants on the flip side: "Members of Taliban and al Qaeda! We know where you are hiding."