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U.S. Resumes Retaliatory Attacks; Libya Guns Silent : 6th Fleet Knocks Out More Boats

March 25, 1986|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — U.S. jets and warships, citing "hostile intentions" but not hostile fire, knocked out two more Libyan patrol boats and launched a second attack on a radar missile site today as the Navy's 6th Fleet renewed its challenge Col. Moammar Kadafi's claims to the Gulf of Sidra.

One of the patrol boats was sunk by the cruiser Yorktown, marking the first time a Navy ship had used its surface-to-surface missiles against a Libyan vessel.

U.S. officials said the attacks, which occurred during the pre-dawn hours today, Tripoli time, were justified to protect American sailors and ships from attack by a country that had already demonstrated "hostile intentions."

The attacks came even though the Libyan boats and missile installation did not fire on American forces. But U.S. officials said the battle force had standing orders that declared any Libyan plane or boat approaching them to have hostile intentions.

Backtracking from an earlier statement that the attacks were in response to renewed firing from the Libyans today, the Pentagon said Libyan forces had been silent since Monday's raids.

Spokesman Bob Sims told reporters that there had been confusion within the Pentagon over the number of missiles fired by Libya on Monday. He said today that as many as 12 Soviet-made missiles were fired across Col. Moammar Kadafi's so-called "line of death."

Attack on Surt Reported

White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the United States struck again at a Soviet-built Libyan missile site at Surt that had been reported knocked out in the initial retaliatory strike on Monday, and had in the two days of attacks fired on five Libyan boats. He said three boats were set afire or sunk, a fourth was damaged but returned to port and the fifth may have escaped. At least 150 crewmen were believed aboard the boats.

Speakes also said that although the missile-guidance radar was knocked out on Monday, the Libyans probably had multiple radars used to aim their missiles from the site because the fleet detected renewed radar signals during the night before ordering a renewed attack.

"An hour ago, it was down and not operating," Speakes said. "It had been up and down through the night . . . so we do know it was damaged; we do not know whether it's inoperative or can be made operational. We do not have any casualty reports."

Monday's strike came after six anti-aircraft missiles were fired at--but missed--U.S. warplanes crossing Kadafi's "line of death" at the mouth of the Gulf of Sidra.

Early today, the Pentagon had reported that the renewed U.S. attacks on at least two patrol boats and the missile site came after Libya fired six more missiles at carrier-based warplanes operating over the gulf.

6 Missiles Confirmed

But Speakes later said the United States could confirm that only six missiles had been fired in all and suggested that the new reports may have duplicated those announced earlier.

Defense Department sources, meantime, said the United States might conclude the maneuvers off the Libyan coast before the end of the week.

"If they stop shooting at us, we'll probably stop soon," one source said.

In other developments, U.S. officials warned Libya not to harm about 100 Americans remaining in that country after Libya's official radio urged the execution of American "spies" in the Arab world.

"American spies who were pushed forward as experts and consultants (in the oil industry) should now be executed, wherever they might be in the Arab homeland," the broadcast said.

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