April 7, 2011 / 8:06 PM / 9 years ago

Swedish jets make first combat mission in 50 yrs

STOCKHOLM, April 7 (Reuters) - Swedish warplanes operating from Sicily took part in NATO’s operations against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Thursday, the first combat sortie by the Nordic country’s air force since the early 1960s.

A Swedish military spokesman said the aircraft had carried out a mission lasting about 40 minutes, according to plan, and had returned safely to their base in southern Italy. He would not provide any further information due to NATO regulations.

The last time Sweden flew combat missions was in the Congo in the early 1960s, under United Nations orders.

The country, which has not fought a war for 200 years, sent eight single-seat JAS 39 Gripen planes to the Sigonella airbase at the start of this month to help patrol the no-fly zone imposed on Libya by the UN.

The jets have been forbidden by Swedish authorities to carry out any ground attacks other than in self defence, conditions agreed with NATO.

Civil war in the vast North African desert oil producer ignited in February when Gaddafi tried to crush pro-democracy rallies against his 41-year-old rule, inspired by uprisings that have toppled or endangered other rulers across the Arab world. (Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Simon Johnson; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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