Libyan crisis: Latest developments, March 24

This image taken during an organized trip by the Libyan authorities shows a multiple rocket launcher destroyed outside what was described as a maintenance warehouse hit by two missiles on a Naval base in Tripoli, Libya, March 22, 2011.
AP Photo/Jerome Delay

Latest developments from March 24

Last updated at 10:42 p.m.

A Libyan rebel carries rockets
A Libyan rebel carries rockets on a checkpoint on the frontline near Zwitina, the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, eastern Libya, March 24, 2011.

  • (AP) Explosions could be heard in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, before daybreak Friday, apparently from airstrikes.
  • (CBS/AP) Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday the United States is taking the next step in military operations against Libya by transferring command and control of the no-fly zone to NATO. The alliance would eventually protect Libyan civilians, she says.
  • (CBS/AP) During a Pentagon briefing, Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said the United States was working to hand off control of Libya military mission by this weekend, but that air combat missions likely to continue in Libya after command handoff.
  • (AP) Turkey's state-run TV has quoted Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as saying Turkey's demands have been met and NATO will now take command of the Libya military operation.

    NATO needs the approval of all 28 of its members to do that, and Turkey had set conditions that were a stumbling block.

  • Ali Tarhouni, who was appointed the finance minister of the rebel government, had a frank discussion with journalists about the shortcomings of the rebel movement, admitting that they will have to rely on allied airstrikes and young people who first faced the army with stones since they only have about 1,000 trained men, according to the New York Times.
  • (CBS/AP) A French fighter jet reported attacking and destroying a Libyan plane believed to be a military trainer aircraft, a U.S. official said, providing the information about the event Thursday on condition of anonymity because it has not been publicly announced by the French government.

    It was not clear if the Libyan G-2/Galeb was violating the no-fly zone and was shot down in a dog fight, whether it was trying to land in Misrata, or was on the ground, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin.

    The official cautioned that details were still being confirmed.

  • (The New York Times)Shady dealings helped Qaddafi build fortune and regime, reports the New York Times. The newspaper cites anectdotes that "reflect a Libyan culture rife with corruption, kickbacks, strong-arm tactics and political patronage since the United States reopened trade with Colonel Qaddafi's government in 2004."
  • (CBS) The U.S. Mission to NATO is continuing consultations with allies to finalize the no-fly zone (NFZ) Execution Directive and to consider broadening the mission to include civilian protection. A North Atlantic Council meeting is expected late March 24.
  • (AP) BENGHAZI, Libya -- French airstrikes hit an air base deep inside Libya in an effort to stop possible traffic of arms or the flow of mercenaries into Libya, a military official said Thursday.
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  • Government troops continued barraging the western city of Misrata on Thursday but were forced to roll back their tanks periodically amid coalition airstrikes.
  • (AP) As America's NATO allies shoulder a greater share of the mission in Libya, the Arab countries that urged the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone are missing from the action. Except for the small Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, which is expected to start flying air patrols over Libya by this weekend, no other members of the 22-member Arab League so far have publicly committed to taking an active role. The U.S. has sold many of these countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, billions of dollars in sophisticated military gear over the past decade to help counter Iran's power in the region.
  • The regime has been keeping up a drumbeat of propaganda in the Tripoli-centered west of the country under its control. Even so, some still whisper their opposition to the Libyan leader.

    State-run newscasts are filled with conspiracy theories, like Western designs on Libyan oil and Gulf-funded al-Qaida militants out to divide the country. Libyan broadcasts call the allied air strikes Crusades, and callers on talk shows quickly blame Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, the Arabic language satellite TV channels, for boosting what they call militant gangs in the East, where the rebels are in control.

  • A U.S.-based economist appointed finance minister in the Libyan rebels' first attempt at a government admits they have made mistakes, missed opportunities and shown disorganization but he says they aren't short of cash, and they'll get better at their jobs.

    Ali Tarhouni told reporters Wednesday that in trying to begin governing themselves, the rebels have to counter the effects of a decades-long ban on a basic element of self rule: Dictator Moammar Gadhafi banned public groups, so now the rebels have to start organizing from scratch.

Latest developments from March 23

Destroyed Libyan missile launchers in Tripoli
This image taken during an organized trip by the Libyan authorities shows a multiple rocket launcher destroyed outside what was described as a maintenance warehouse hit by two missiles on a Naval base in Tripoli, Libya, March 22, 2011.

  • (Reuters) Al Arabiya TV is reporting air strikes of some kind on Qaddafi's compound in the hotly contested coastal city of Ajdabiya.
  • (AP) Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged Wednesday that there is no clear end to the international military enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya, and says no one was ever under any illusion that the assault would last just two or three weeks. He added that the U.S. could turn over control of the operation as soon as Saturday, but could not say how the coalition operation might be resolved.
  • (CBS/AP) Rear Adm. Gerard Hueber said the coalition is targeting Muammar Qaddafi's mechanized forces, his artillery and mobile missile sites as well as ammunition and other supplies for government troops. He says that with the eastern city of Benghazi in rebel control, coalition forces have moved west to try to protect Ajdabiya and Misrata. Officials also reported bombing an ammunition depot Wednesday near Misrata.
  • Libyan rebel returns from the frontline at the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, eastern Libya, Tuesday, March 22, 2011.
    AP Photo
  • (CBS/AP) President Barack Obama categorically ruled out the deployment of U.S. troops on the ground in Libya, even if embattled leader Muammar Qaddafi retains his hold on power. Mr. Obama was asked in an interview with the Spanish-language network Univision if a land invasion would be out of the question in the event air strikes fail to dislodge Qaddafi from power. Obama replied that it was "absolutely" out of the question. Asked what the exit strategy is, Obama did not lay out a vision for ending the international action but rather said: "The exit strategy will be executed this week in the sense that we will be pulling back from our much more active efforts to shape the environment.
  • (CBS/AP) The cost of military intervention in Libya has cost the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars, with the figure racing toward a $1 billion.

    Zack Cooper, senior analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told that the cost of airstrikes could reach $800 million to completely establish the no-fly zone and $100 million more a week to keep it going.

    The U.S. has launched hundreds of $1 million missiles, brought in an array of jets, warships, bombers, and refueling tankers and already lost one $75 million fighter jet.

    "Every six hours we have another billion-dollar deficit," said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "This could cost us a billion dollars there, which means simply another billion-dollar debt that our kids."

  • (CBS/AP) The U.S. continues to emphasize its desire to cede its lead role in the Libyan mission to NATO or other allied partners, but it's so far finding few countries willing to step up. In the last 24 hours, U.S. forces flew 53 missions in Libya and dropped 10 bombs. All other air forces flew 26 missions and dropped eight bombs, CBS News correspondent David Martin reports. The U.S. "did the right thing ... by going to Benghazi last week, stopping a potential humanitarian disaster," former State Department official Nicholas Burns told CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday, but it's time for allies to step up. "The Europeans are the ones who said that we had to go in here," Burns said. "They have a direct interest, a vital interest -- Britain, France, Italy, Spain -- and they ought to be doing more to help the United States. That's where the action is going to be over the next day or two."
  • (AP) Muammar Qaddafi's snipers and tanks are terrorizing civilians in the coastal city of Misrata, a resident said, and the U.S. military warned it was "considering all options" in response to dire conditions there that have left people cowering in darkened homes and scrounging for food and rainwater.
  • (AP) Agence France Presse said the Libyan government released on Wednesday three journalists captured last week near a key eastern city that has been a daily battleground between Qaddafi's forces and Libyan rebels. The AFP reported the three were freed in Tripoli.
  • President Obama is returning Wednesday to Washington from his Latin America trip a few hours earlier than planned. Mr. Obama said Tuesday (video) in El Salvador that he had "absolutely no doubt" the U.S. would be able to transition the lead role in maintaining the Libya no-fly zone to its allies in Europe and the Middle East in the near future.
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  • (CBS/AP) Col. Muammar Qaddafi made his first public appearance in a week on Tuesday, promising enthusiastic supporters at his recently-bombed residential compound in Tripoli, "In the short term, we'll beat them, in the long term, we'll beat them." The long-time Libyan ruler vowed that Western nations involved in the coalition military effort to thwart his brutal force against rebels would end up "in the dustbin of history."
  • (CBS/AP) Two explosions rocked Tripoli early Wednesday morning, likely the latest missile strikes by the U.S.-led coalition against Muammar Qaddafi's regime. The targets of the blasts remained unclear later Wednesday morning. Heavy anti-aircraft fire and loud explosions sounded in Tripoli after nightfall, possibly a new attack in the international air campaign that so far has focused on military targets. Two explosions were heard in the city before daybreak Wednesday.