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Canadian jets abort ground attack in Libya over fears of civilian casualties

An F18 Hornet of the Canadian air force arrives at the Trapani Birgi air base in the southern island of Sicily on March 18, 2011.

MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images

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 Libyan 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.

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The Canadian jets returned safely to base.

Canada has sent six CF18 fighter jets to the operation and a frigate. It also has refuelling 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.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said that while the United States is still co-ordinating 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 has been taken thus far," Mr. MacKay saud at a briefing.

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