Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2 US Crewmen Rescued By Libyan Rebels After F-15 Crash; How Much Gold Does Gaddafi Have?

The first confirmed US military asset lost over Libya is an F-15E jet, following confirmation from The Telegraph that the plane crashed, supposedly as a result of a mechanical error, not due to being shot down. From Reuter: "A U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter jet crashed in Libya overnight after apparent mechanical failure but its crew were safe, a spokesman for the U.S. military Africa Command said on Tuesday. Libyan rebels rescued the pilot after he ejected from the warplane which came down near the eastern city of Benghazi, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on its website. "Just found a crashed US warplane in a field. believe a mechanical failure brought it down," Telegraph correspondent Rob Crilly said on the Twitter micro-blogging site."

U.S. spokesman Vince Crawley declined to give the location of the crash and also would not say how the rescued crewman was picked up or where he was taken.

Another spokesman for the Stuttgart-based Africa Command said later that the second crewman had also been safely rescued, and that both crewmembers had suffered only minor injuries after ejecting from the aircraft.

The crash was likely caused by mechanical failure and not hostile fire, Crawley added.

The Telegraph web site showed local Libyans inspecting the charred wreckage of the plane.

"Came down late last night. Crew believed safe," Crilly added in subsequent tweets.

Western forces carried out a third night of air raids overnight aimed at protecting civilians from forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

At the same time, the FT is hypothesizing that the one saving grace for Gaddafi may at this point be the country's 140+ ton gold stash, which is worth $6.5 billion at today's fixing. Just as the gold may be the reason for why Gaddafi has so far not been backed into a corner following all the recent asset freezes, it may, in conjunction with the country's oil be the explanation for the UN's eagerness to liberate the country. Because last time we checked Ivory Coast had a deposed dictator who was killing his people in the midst of a civil war and nobody really seemed to rush to establish a no fly zone. Looks like that edible cocoa just is not as valuable as yellow and black gold after all...

The Libyan central bank – which is under Colonel Gaddafi’s control – holds 143.8 tonnes of gold, according to the latest data from the International Monetary Fund, although some suspect the true amount could be several tonnes higher.

Those reserves, among the top 25 in the world, are worth more than $6.5bn at current prices, enough to pay a small army of mercenaries for months or even years.

While many central banks hold their gold reserves in international vaults in London, New York or Switzerland, Libya’s bullion is in the country, said people familiar with the country’s activities in the gold market.

US and European governments have frozen billions of dollars in Libyan assets, as sanctions have hit the central bank, sovereign wealth fund and state oil company.

But Libya’s gold reserves may provide Col Gaddafi with a lifeline – if he can sell them. To raise large amounts of money, bankers said, Col Gaddafi would have to transport the bullion out of Libya.

Wondering what other middle eastern country is sitting on lots and lots of oil, and according to recent disclosures, has double the gold of Libya... And whether this combination will be the pretext for another "humaniatrian intervention."

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