BACKGROUND FEATURE: April 15th marks 20th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Libya
- Title: BACKGROUND FEATURE: April 15th marks 20th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Libya
- Date: 15th April 2006
- Summary: BENGHAZI, LIBYA (FILE - APRIL 21, 1986) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MRS GADDAFI WITH TWO OF HER SONS, TALKING TO REPORTERS, SAYING: "I ask for the British people and the American people to judge Thatcher and Reagan."
- Reuters ID: LVA5BVY2VUZYGSVAUJHMDXQBI7AX
- Duration: 00:00:18
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,International Relations
- Story Text: Libya on Saturday (April 15, 2006) marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of the country, an event which still sours relations between the two countries despite a recent partial rapprochement.
Twenty years ago Washington blamed Libya for bombing a West Berlin disco used by U.S. servicemen. Two American soldiers and a Turkish woman were killed and more thank 200 people were wounded in the explosion at the 'La Belle' discotheque in Berlin.
As a result Libya was itself bombed by U.S. aircrafts which killed more than 40 people, including leader Muammar Gaddafi's 16-month-old adopted baby daughter. Gaddafi himself was unharmed, but his wife and two sons, aged three and four were among the hundreds of people taken to hospital, with serious damage to their lungs from the blast of the bombs that hit Gaddafi's barracks residence.
U.S. forces bombed Tripoli and Benghazi in the early hours of April 15, 1986, in retaliation for what then President Ronald Reagan said was Libyan complicity in the bombing of the discotheque in Berlin a month earlier.
The raids on Libya's capital and its second city caused heavy property damage. At least 12 apartment blocks in the middle-class Beni Ashour district were destroyed and the French and Iranian embassies were severely damaged.
A fleet of 18 supersonic F 111 bombers flying from U.S. air bases in England provided the essential firepower for the raid. The bombers, refuelled in the air by KC-10 tankers from other British bases, flew 2,800 miles over the Atlantic to lead A-6 and A-7 fighters from the Sixth Fleet. France and Spain, which later condemned the raid, would no allow U.S. planes to fly over their territory.
As the north African country marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. attack on Saturday, Libyans say the lack of any U.S. apology hinders renewed efforts by both sides to build trust.
In the early hours of Saturday dignitaries will gather at Gaddafi's still-ruined house to mark the anniversary, an annual ritual. The residence has been kept in its wrecked state as a monument to what Libya regards as an act of U.S. perfidy.
The attack pushed U.S.-Libyan ties to what was then their lowest point. They sank lower still when a Pan Am flight was blown up over Scotland in December 1988, killing 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground in the village of Lockerbie.
Libya cast off more than a decade of international ostracism in 2003 when it accepted responsibility and began paying compensation for Lockerbie and for the bombing of a French airliner over Niger in 1989 in which 170 people were killed.
It promised to dismantle its nuclear, chemical and biological programmes and signed additional protocols with the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.
The next year Libya agreed to compensate more than 160 victims of the Berlin nightclub bombing.
But the 1986 U.S. raid has left a residue of mistrust and a feeling amongst Libyans that they have made most of the concessions to facilitate a rebuilding of relations.
The United States has always dismissed Libyan calls for compensation for the attack. Libya remains on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Libyan analyst Ahmed al-Atrash said that relations between Libya and the U.S. are still in a state of suspicion.
Atrash said Libya's continued designation as a sponsor of terrorism sent a bad signal to other nations on the State Department list -- Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and Syria.
Two lines in Reagan's address to the nation announcing the attacks are still seen as particularly offensive in Libya.
One is that they were carefully targeted to avoid civilian casualties. The other is that Washington would carry out the attacks again if necessary.
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