) -- Western warplanes struck Libyan ground forces at a strategic eastern town Friday as NATO began drawing up plans to assume full control of the no-fly zone over Libya.


said Tripoli residents reported another air raid just before dawn Friday.

A French plane destroyed an artillery battery belonging to Moammar Gadhafi's forces near the eastern frontline town of Ajdabiyah, 90 miles south of Benghazi. Ajdabiyah is strategically important for both sides as it commands the coastal highway to the west,



British Tornado aircraft also were active there, firing missiles overnight at Libyan military vehicles threatening civilians,



NATO decided late Thursday to maintain the no-fly patrols as authorized by a U.N. Security Council resolution last week,

The Associated Press

reported. They also instructed NATO's military staff to draw up plans for replacing the coalition air force currently led by the U.S. in carrying out airstrikes against Gadhafi's forces.

NATO was hoping to launch both operations simultaneously within the next couple of days, an official said,


reported, but the operations need approval from NATO's top decision-making body which meets Sunday.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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Joseph Woelfel

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