Tripoli claims to have shot down NATO helicopter

Libyan government forces have shot down a NATO helicopter, Libyan state television reported Friday. DPA reported

"The People's Armed Forces have dropped down early today a NATO helicopter," Al-Jamahiriya channel reported, citing a military source. "This is the third helicopter to be shot down since NATO began to use them."

Protests against Gaddafi, who has been in power for 42 years, began in mid-February, but soon turned into an armed conflict following a lethal government crackdown on demonstrators. Rebels say over 12,000 people have been killed since the conflict began earlier this year.

NATO deployed attack helicopters for the first time on Libya earlier this month to step up pressure against leader Moamer Gaddafi.

"There is no indication at this time of any NATO aircraft of being shot down," a NATO official said. Two previous claims by Tripoli to have down NATO helicopters proved unfounded.

Attack helicopters allow NATO more flexibility in its operations, as well as more precision strikes against Gaddafi's forces. But by flying close to the ground, they also expose the alliance to counter-attacks.

Change In Libya activists wrote online that there had been fierce clashes since Thursday in Zliten , where Gaddafi's forces have been shelling buildings in the city.

A video statement by rebels in Zliten was published on the opposition website Libya al-Youm Friday where they vowed to continue their fight against Gaddafi forces.

"We are ready for cleansing the country from the corrupt, mercenaries and the regime's followers," they said.

Rebels in the western mountains area said they were able to take control over at least four cities, including Yefren and al-Qalaa, over the past week.

Fighters were able to open a surgery clinic and install new medical equipment in the nearby Jadu town, the opposition Libya al-Hurra online group said.

They said on Thursday that this is the first medical practice in the area, and most of the doctors there are from Benghazi.

[Source: Trend by Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 10Jun11]

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