NEWS
07/14/2011 10:06 EDT | Updated 09/13/2011 05:12 EDT

Moammar Gadhafi Orders Troops To Destroy Facilities As They Retreat: Canadian General

AP File

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- OTTAWA - The Canadian general commanding NATO's mission in Libya says strongman Moammar Gadhafi is telling his forces to destroy facilities as they retreat.

Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard says that doesn't mean his troops are following those orders.

"The Gadhafi regime has given direction to its forces to destroy certain facilities as they withdraw back, such as fuel refineries and other aspects," Bouchard told reporters today in a conference call from Naples, Italy.

The general did not offer further details.

"This is a leader that will not hesitate to kill his own population to achieve his personal goals," says Bouchard.

"Let's be clear, just because Gadhafi has given a direction, it does not mean that direction is being undertaken by his own troops."

Gadhafi's troops are abandoning their posts regularly, he adds.

The UN-sanctioned, NATO-led mission is in its fourth month, with six Canadian warplanes participating in the bombardment under a mandate to protect civilians and assist anti-Gadhafi rebels.

Bouchard says that Gadhafi maintains a tight grip on the capital of Tripoli.

Gadhafi's security forces continue to keep the population of Tripoli down, and the NATO mission is trying to protect them as well, the general adds.

"The threat remains of harm coming to them."

Defence Minister Peter MacKay is visiting Canadian personnel based in Italy with the mission. He rejected suggestions that the mission has reached a stalemate between Gadhafi and the rebels.

But MacKay said the mission has proven to be "a complex and involved affair."

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is on his way to Turkey for the latest meeting of the Contact Group on Libya.

It will be Baird's first meeting with the group of countries that is planning for a post-Gadhafi Libya.

Baird visited the Libyan rebels last month in their stronghold of Benghazi after Canada recognized them as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people.

Parliament voted by a near unanimous margin of 294-1 to extend Canada's military contribution to the NATO mission to the end of September.

So far, CF-18 fighter jets have flown more than 500 attack missions and dropped 399 laser-guided bombs, said MacKay.

Canada has about 650 military personnel committed to the NATO effort, including surveillance planes and a warship.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press