Thursday, October 20, 2011
How Creech drone/NATO jets cornered Gaddafi for rebel forces
Special To The The Telegraph: Nato forces designated Gaddafi as a military target after the former Libyan leader’s forces started firing on civilians as they tried to escape Sirte in a convoy of up to 100 vehicles.
It is understood that RAF Tornados were patrolling over Sirte at the time of the escape attempt but were not directly involved in the operation.
Gaddafi had been under surveillance by Nato forces for the past week after an intelligence breakthrough allowed them to pinpoint his location.
An American drone and an array of Nato eavesdropping aircraft had been trained on his Sirte stronghold to ensure he could not escape.
Intelligence sources have suggested that in his last days Gaddafi broke his rigid rule of telephone silence and was overheard using either a mobile or satellite phone. Voice recognition technology would have instantly picked up any call that he made.
MI6 agents and CIA officers on the ground were also providing intelligence and it is believed that Gaddafi was given a code name in the same way that US forces used the name Geronimo during the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
Since the fall of Tripoli in August, intelligence services have been searching for Gaddafi across Libya and beyond using agents, special forces and eavesdropping equipment.
US and British special forces had trawled through Gaddafi’s former desert stronghold around Sirte and the south of Libya without finding him.
At one point they concluded that he probably had fled the country.
But as the National Transition Council forces increased their stranglehold on Sirte, Gaddafi decided to make a run for it at 8.30 yesterday morning.
Defence sources referred to the move as “tantamount to suicide”.
“US Predators and French drones have been staking out the centre of Sirte for several weeks trying to monitor what’s going on on the battlefield,” said an intelligence source. “They built up a normal pattern of life picture so that when something unusual happened this morning such as a large group of vehicles gathering together, that came across as highly unusual activity and the decision was taken to follow them and prosecute an attack.”
Electronic warfare aircraft, either an American Rivet Joint or a French C160 Gabriel, also picked up Gaddafi’s movements as he attempted to escape
There were no RAF Nimrod R1s to intercept signals intelligence as they had been axed in the middle of the campaign as part of defence cuts.
But a pair of RAF Tornado GR4s were on a “combat reconnaissance” patrol nearby and provided intelligence on vehicle movements.
The Predator drone, flown out of Sicily and controlled via satellite from a base outside Las Vegas, struck the convoy with a number of Hellfire anti-tank missiles. Moments later French jets, most likely Rafales, swept in, targeting the vehicles with 500lb Paveway bombs or highly accurate AASM munitions.
British forces are expected to withdraw from Libya in the coming weeks.
Last night, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said: “It brings much closer the end of the Nato mission.”
Posted by Steve Douglass at 7:55 PM