Sandstorms, civilian worries hit NATO Libya sorties

Fri Apr 1, 2011 3:30pm GMT

* Civilian casualties a growing concern for Western forces

* NATO makes 180 sorties over Libya on first day

By Justyna Pawlak

BRUSSELS, April 1 (Reuters) - Bad weather and mounting concern over civilian casualties curbed NATO operations in Libya in the first day since it assumed command of the Western campaign against Muammar Gaddafi, NATO officials said on Friday.

NATO took over air strikes targeting Gaddafi's military infrastructure as well as enforcement of a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone and arms embargo on Thursday, replacing a coalition led by the United States, France and Britain.

Since then, military analysts say there have been few signs of the intense air strikes that dominated the beginning of the nearly two-week, Western-led campaign.

NATO officials said sandstorms had an impact on initial operations, limiting the alliance's ability to identify air strike targets, although the weather was improving on Friday.

"Yesterday, we were somewhat restricted by bad weather," one NATO official said.   Continued...

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