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British Apache attack helicopters have launched their first strikes on Muammar Gaddafi's troops in Libya, including near the key coastal oil city of Brega, Nato has confirmed.
The RAF Apaches and French attack craft struck troops loyal to Gaddafi who were hiding in populated areas, giving a major boost to Libyan rebels on the ground and coming one day after government troops were forced from three western towns.
Former SAS soldiers and other western employees of private security companies are helping Nato identify targets in the Libyan port city of Misrata, the scene of heavy fighting between Muammar Gaddafi's forces and rebels, well-placed sources have told the Guardian.
The Libyan opposition is a motley crew of disaffected tribes, the well-meaning youth movement, civilian and military defectors from the Gaddafi regime, Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored assets (such as sinister former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil), Muslim Brotherhood-related (and unrelated) Islamists, and monarchist Senussi tribesmen. The Senussi is the top tribe in the Benghazi area; most of the keffiah-and-Kalashnikov "rebels" are Senussi, as was King Idris, overthrown by Gaddafi in 1969.
It requires major suspension of belief to cast former Gaddafi interior minister Abdel Fatah Younis and CIA asset Khalifah Hifle - the new "rebel" military commander - as Ulysses and Diomede. But still Palladium is in the building.