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'Heaviest Strikes Yet' on Tripoli

11:41 AM, May 24, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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NATO forces have just completed its "heaviest attack yet on the capital since the start of the two-month-old NATO bombing campaign...alliance aircraft struck at least 15 targets in central Tripoli early Tuesday, with most of the airstrikes concentrated on an area around Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s command compound," the New York Times reports.

The AP reports that NATO helicopters might soon be added to the fight:

In what would be a significant new deployment of firepower, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Monday that France and Britain will bring in attack helicopters for use in the airstrikes. However, Britain said Tuesday that it has not made any such decision.

British armed forces minister Nick Harvey told Parliament that he couldn't comment on what the French were saying, but he insisted "that we have not taken this decision, and that we have not suggested to the French that we have taken this decision."

Harvey left open the possibility that Britain would throw helicopters into the fight, but insisted that Britain was — as of Tuesday — merely considering its options.

The use of helicopters would mark a new strategy for NATO, which has seen Gadhafi's forces adapt, often turning to urban fighting to make strikes by fighter planes more difficult.

Nimble, low-flying helicopters can more easily carry out precision strikes than jets, but they are also more vulnerable to ground fire. The alliance has had no military deaths since it began enforcing a no-fly zone on March 31.

Stateside, "a senior U.S. diplomat said President Barack Obama has invited the Libyan rebels' National Transitional Council to open an office in Washington but stopped short of formal recognition."

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