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First NATO Strikes In Libya With Attack Helicopters

Attack helicopters provide the NATO operation in Libya with greater flexibility to track and engage pro-Qaddafi forces.
NATO has announced in a statement that "attack helicopters under NATO command were used for the first time" in military operations over Libya on June 4.

NATO said the "targets included military vehicles, military equipment and fielded forces" without detailing exactly where the strikes had taken place.

The alliance said the use of attack helicopters provides the NATO operation in Libya with flexibility to track and attack pro-Qaddafi forces attempting to hide in populated areas.

Military analysts say it also greatly increases the risk of Western forces suffering their first casualties of the campaign, given the vulnerability of helicopters to ground fire.

The commander of NATO's Libya force, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, said the first engagement had been successful and shown the unique capabilities of attack helicopters.

"We will continue to use these assets whenever and wherever needed," he said.

Military analysts say attack helicopters will allow more precise strikes against forces in built-up areas than high-flying jets used until now, while reducing the risk of civilian casualties.

compiled from agency reports