Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the United States Air Strike Against Libya

April 15, 1986

As of this morning, 16 of the 18 F - 111 fighter bombers have returned to their base in Mildenhall, England. One plane, which developed mechanical problems en route, has landed in Spain. One F - 111 remains unaccounted for. A naval and air search operation is currently underway to locate this aircraft. All carrier-based aircraft have returned safely to the carriers without incident.

In our assessment of the situation, we believe that we have struck a blow against terrorism. We have sent a message to Qadhafi. Our objective was to inflict damage to Qadhafi's capability to direct and control the export of international terrorism.

The United States, and for that matter all freedom-loving peoples of the world, cannot tolerate terrorism. When we can clearly identify those responsible for terrorist acts, we will hold them accountable. The goal, therefore, was to strike targets in a way that would damage Qadhafi's ability to perpetrate terrorist acts. We wanted to show that such attacks are a consequence of undertaking terrorist actions, that terrorism cannot be supported without incurring a heavy price. We have successfully accomplished both objectives. We hope this action will deter future terrorist attacks. It was to send a clear message that we will no longer tolerate death of innocent Americans and others. We are confident this message was heard and understood.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 9:26 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.