RAF jets attack military vehicle depot

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RAF jets have attacked a military vehicle depot in the Libyan desert in the latest strike against the forces of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The announcement came as speculation mounted over an imminent announcement of the deployment of British Apache attack helicopters in a new escalation of the coalition military effort in Libya.

Prime Minister David Cameron today confirmed that the deployment of the helicopters was under consideration, but declined to say whether a decision had been taken. Ministry of Defence spokesmen would say only that no announcement had been made.

Speaking after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the G8 summit in Deauville, Mr Cameron said: "We are looking at ways to turn up the pressure, including helicopters. When we are ready to make an announcement we'll make an announcement."

Mr Sarkozy has already authorised the use of 12 French attack helicopters, operating from the amphibious assault ship Le Tonnerre.

His defence secretary Gerard Longuet said on Monday that the UK would do the same, telling reporters: "The British, who have assets similar to ours, will also commit. The sooner the better is what the British think."

A White House official appeared to indicate on Tuesday that Washington believes the Apaches will be deployed, telling reporters: "This additional contribution by the British, of course, is an important effort to strengthen the capability of the coalition, and we certainly welcome it."

But ministers in London have refused to be drawn on the issue, repeatedly insisting that no decision has yet been taken.

It is understood that, if authorised, Apaches could fly from HMS Ocean in the Mediterranean on missions to attack Gaddafi's forces in built-up areas of the besieged city of Misrata.

The Chief of Defence Staff's spokesman Major General John Lorimer gave details of Wednesday's operations by British forces.

He said: "Intensive air missions continued yesterday under Nato's Operation Unified Protector, to protect Libyan civilians under threat of attack and enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

"A major target for the Royal Air Force contingent yesterday was the large military vehicle depot at Tiji in the west of Libya, which has been supporting regime attacks on the civilian population in the Djebel Nafousa region, south west of Tripoli.

"Tornado and Typhoon aircraft, accompanied by other Nato aircraft, used Paveway guided bombs to attack multiple targets within the depot, causing very extensive damage."