Nightly News | April 02, 2011
>>> now, to libya . a friendly fire accident that has left a dozen rebel fires dead. a nato air strike targeted the forces fighting against moammar gadhafi . this as the u.s. is ending combat strikes in libya . richard engel has the latest for us from benghazi .
>> reporter: this was the deadliest case of friendly fire in this conflict so far. but it has not created a major backlash, an angry reaction, as rebel leaders realize that they still need western air support. the rebels front line is slowly advancing through the desert near the town of bregga. nato air strikes clear the way. targeting gadhafi's tanks and jeeps. jeeps that look just like the ones used by the rebels. friendly fire on this chaotic highway battlefield may have just been a matter of time. witnesses say a nato jet today destroyed a convoy of vehicles killing at least a dozen rebels. but the rebels may have triggered it. witnesses say the rebels who have a tendency to shoot wildly in the air, fired anti-aircraft guns at the nato aircraft which shot back. the rebels quickly buried their dead in makeshift graves nearby. the opposition leadership in benghazi called the incident unfortunate, but did not condemn nato .
>> we feel sorry for the families who lost their children in this particular attack, however, we think it is necessary for nato to keep doing what they are doing, because the benefit is much greater than what happened today.
>> nato says its investigating the attack, which comes as the united states is preparing to end its combat missions over libya . the pentagon has said, as of sunday, american aircraft will continue to gather intelligence and refuel fighter jets , but no longer drop bombs. it ends a critical phase of the combat operation. and avoids the risk that american troops will cause civilian casualties, always a significant danger in an air campaign without troops on the ground to identify targets. as of now here in libya , the deadline for u.s. aircraft to stop flying bombing missions has passed. however, u.s. planes will remain on stand by in case they're called for for emergency supports.
>> richard engel in benghazi , thanks.