Muammar Gaddafi has narrowly escaped being blown to bits by American bombers once before, when Ronald Reagan launched an airborne attack on Libya from US airforce bases in the UK.
After the Libyan leader was blamed for ordering the attack on the West Berlin disco that killed two US servicemen, Margaret Thatcher gave permission for 22 F-111 aircraft to take off from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Upper Heyford in England to exact revenge.
The raid on Libya on the night of 15th April 1986 was denied overflight rights by France, Spain and Italy as well as the use of European continental bases, forcing the US bombers be flown around France, Spain and through the Straits of Gibraltar, adding 1,300 miles each way and requiring multiple aerial refuelings.
Gaddafi was forewarned by the Italian government and escaped the assassination attempt in the nick of time.
But his regime created a propaganda campaign about civilian deaths, including claims that Gaddafi’s “adopted daughter” had been killed.
Many of the US precision bombs did miss their targets, and Gaddafi emerged a strengthened figure, outlasting Thatcher, Reagan and three subsequent American presidents to date.
The one part of the event that could not be made up was that Libyan surface-to-air missile fire brought down one of the attacking F-111 aircraft, killing its two crewmen.
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