WASHINGTON, March 6, 2011: U.S. military aircraft flew 640 Egyptians home today and yesterday from the Tunisia-Libya border where the refugees fled to escape the violence that continues between government forces and rebels in Libya.
U.S. Africa Command is overseeing the effort as part of the ongoing U.S. and international response to the evolving humanitarian emergency in that region.
"For passenger evacuation, four more flights today are moving 328 passengers to Egypt," Africom spokesman Kenneth Fidler said in an e-mail.
Most of the passengers were men who had been working in Libya before violence flared on Feb. 17 when Libyan leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi cracked down on protesters demanding government reform.
Yesterday's four flights moved 312, Fidler said.
The last military flight today left Djaerba in the late afternoon carrying 82 Egyptian nationals for a flight to Cairo that was expected to last 3.5 hours.
Also yesterday, Fidler added, two U.S. Air Force C-130s from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, delivered humanitarian commodities less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama announced U.S. military support to the international effort.
Donations from the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance warehouse at Leghorn Army Depot in Pisa, Italy, included 2,000 blankets, 40 rolls of plastic sheeting and 9,600 10-liter plastic water containers.
The C-130J crews have used Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece, on the island of Crete, as a hub and crew-rest location. Crews of the Marine Corps KC-130s have used Naval Station Sigonella, Italy, on the island of Sicily, as a hub for their role in the operations, according to Africom officials. Thousands of Egyptians have returned home from the Tunisia-Libya border on aircraft and ferries belonging to or chartered by governments from around the world.
On March 4, Naval Forces Europe-Africa, which coordinates U.S. Navy support to Africom, established the joint task for Odyssey Dawn to provide tactical command and control for emergency evacuations, humanitarian relief, and future Africom missions in support of the U.S. government response to unrest in Libya.
Africom announced its airlift progress and the establishment of Odyssey Dawn in tweets from the social networking site, Twitter.
The airlift and humanitarian effort is part of a larger U.S. government emergency response that Obama ordered last week.
"The United States, and the entire world, continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people," he said during a March 3 press conference.
"The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Gadhafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people," the president said. "We are also responding quickly to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing."
On the same day, Obama approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help move Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt.