March 22, 2011 / 6:49 PM / in 7 years

Canadians abort Libya attack, fearing casualties

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian military aircraft joined in a mission against ground targets in Libya on Tuesday, but did not drop their bombs amid concern there might be civilian casualties, military officials said.

Officials said two CF18 aircraft were assigned to attack a unspecified Libya airfield along with other aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition.

“Upon arrival on the scene in the target area, the air crew became aware of a risk (of collateral damage) they deemed as too high,” Major General Tom Lawson, Canada’s Assistant Chief of the Air Staff told reporters.

The Canadian jets returned safely to base.

Canada has sent six CF18 fighter jets to the operation and a frigate. It also has refueling aircraft in the region.

It was the second mission for Canadian planes in the campaign to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to halt attacks on rebels and civilians and open the way for humanitarian help. It was the first time they had been assigned to attack a target.

Defense Minister Peter MacKay said that while the United States is still coordinating air operations, NATO was discussing if and how it should take over the mission.

“There is a further discussion if there will be an evolution of command and control of the entire mission. So no decision have been taken thus far,” MacKay told a briefing.

Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by David Storey

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