A U.S. warplane crashed near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on Tuesday following a third consecutive night of air strikes against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. Both crew members ejected from the F-15E Eagle plane and are safe, and there is no indication that the aircraft was shot down by hostile fire. Upon landing safely on the ground with only minor injuries, one pilot was reportedly thanked and hugged by locals for participating in the allied air strikes. Moussa Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman, claimed that missile strikes on Monday had caused “numerous” civilian casualties, particularly near Sirte. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said allies were “going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties,” and that air assaults would decrease in the coming days. The Arab League has expressed dismay over the severity of the attacks, which are expected to result in more civilian deaths. A doctor in the city of Misrata has reported 22 deaths following overnight shelling by government forces.
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