British forces in action over Libya

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British air forces today went into action over Libya as part of international action against dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The launch of UK operations was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron outside 10 Downing Street after he chaired a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergency committee.

Hailing the military action as "necessary, legal and right", the Prime Minister said: "We should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people".

He said his thoughts were with British service personnel who were risking their lives to save others.

And he said: "I believe we should all be confident that what we are doing is in a just cause and in our nation's interest."

Earlier, French fighter jets began the UN-authorised military action, firing on armoured vehicles being used by forces loyal to Gaddafi outside the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

The Ministry of Defence declined to give any immediate information about what British forces have been deployed in Libya or the nature and location of their mission.

But Mr Cameron yesterday told the House of Commons that RAF Typhoon and Tornado fast fighter jets would be involved in the mission - codenamed Operation Ellamy - alongside surveillance aircraft and air-to-air refuelling planes.

Military action was launched following an emergency summit in Paris, at which 19 nations - including a number of Arab states - agreed that Gaddafi had flouted the terms of Thursday's United Nations resolution demanding an immediate end to violence and authorising "any necessary measure" short of foreign occupation.

Around 20 French Mirage and Rafale fighter planes went into action over Benghazi, which had been subjected to intense bombardment by Gaddafi loyalists despite a ceasefire announced yesterday.

Mr Cameron hurried back to London to convene the Cobra meeting, bringing together senior ministers and military top brass to discuss the first military action of his time in office.

The Prime Minister said: "Tonight, British forces are in action over Libya. They are part of an international coalition that has come together to enforce the will of the United Nations and to support the Libyan people.

"We have all seen the appalling brutality that Colonel Gaddafi has meted out against his own people. And far from introducing the ceasefire he spoke about, he has actually stepped up the attacks and the brutality we can all see.

"So what we are doing is necessary, it is legal, and it is right.

"It is necessary because, with others, we should be trying to prevent him using his military against his own people. It is legal, because we have the backing of the United Nations Security Council and also the Arab League and many others. And it is right because we believe we should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people."