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Secret – Classified Material! [stamp:] BStU
GVS-No. : A 456 721 16
Copy 5, 6 pages
EIGVS 819186 [illeg., possibly initials]
from Air Force Marshall Koldunov
on issues related to
"US aggression against LIBYA"
Air Force Marshall Koldunov reported that it was not until 20 April 1986 that a group of Soviet specialists
were permitted to travel to LIBYA to study on-site the US acts of aggression and the countermeasures taken
by the Libyan military.
Currently the only information available is from the Soviet specialists who were employed in the Libyan
military air defense units.
LIBYA has acquired a great deal of modern technology from the Soviet Union, including:
- 4 "VEGA" anti-aircraft missile units units = 24 launch pad
- 86 "VOLCHOV" and "NEVA" anti-aircraft missile
units = 276 launch pads.
Thus, LIBYA's air defense alone has
more than 300 launch pads
for various anti-aircraft missile systems.
In addition, there are a large number of Soviet "KUB" and "OSA-AK" anti-aircraft missiles systems
and French "CROTALE II" anti-aircraft missile systems in the LIBYAN ground forces.
The following air defenses cover TRIPOLI, the capital:
- 7 "VOLCHOV" anti-aircraft missile units = 42 launch pads
- 12 "NEVA" anti-aircraft missile units = 48 launch pads
- 3 "KUB" anti-aircraft missile units = 48 launch pads
- 1 "OSA-AK" anti-aircraft regiment = 16 launch pads
- 2 "CROTALE II" anti-aircraft units = 60 launch pads
Secret – Classified Material! [stamp:] BStU
GVS-No. A 456 721 Copy 5 page 2 17
These air defense forces, which include more than

– 2 –
200 launch pads,
are more than enough to provide assured protection for the capital against air attacks.
On the aggressive acts at the end of March
American aircraft operating from aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean were testing LIBYA's air defenses as
early as the end of March.
A first group of three aircraft flew into Libyan airspace from the sea at about 1200 on 24 March 1986.
Qadhaffi then ordered that the "VEGA" anti-aircraft missile system be used. Two missiles were launched
against the target at a range of 105 km and the target disappeared from the monitor.
The American search and rescue helicopters employed immediately thereafter proved that the target had
been destroyed.
The approach of a second group of two aircraft was detected in the evening at about 1800.
The target was destroyed with one launched missile at a range of 75 km.
The Libyans therefore claimed that they had shot down a total of five aircraft.
After more precise analysis and more objective examination, Soviet specialists determined that three aircraft
had been shot down.
President Reagan said that there had been no losses.
On the aggression on 15 April 1986
The Soviet Union reported as early as 13 April 1986 that a possible air attack on LIBYA was imminent
based on the concentration of the carrier group in the Mediterranean and on other intelligence information.
The Libyans were encouraged to declare "heightened combat readiness" for its military and "full combat
readiness" for national air defense forces and resources. Qadhaffi and the leadership of the Libyan army did
not take this warning seriously and did not respond to it.
Secret – Classified Material! [stamp:] BStU
GVS-No. : A 456 721 Copy 5 page 3 18
F-111 fighter bombers flying out of ENGLAND conducted the 1st air attack at 0335 on 15 April


– 3 –
The air attack on the capital of TRIPOLI did not come from the sea, that is, it did not come from
the MEDITERRANEAN, but from the south across the desert at an altitude of approx. 50 m.
At the same time, aircraft carriers operating in the MEDITERRANEAN launched a large number of
unmanned aircraft (drones), which threw Libyan radar reconnaissance into an extremely difficult
After the unmanned aircraft were employed, the fighter bombers took off from the aircraft carriers
at an altitude of 50 to 70 m while heavy radar jamming was employed.
The first strikes were directed entirely at the air defense system, especially radar stations and
"VEGA" anti-aircraft missile control centers.
The 2nd air attack occurred at 0400 against TRIPOLI and BENGASI.
At this time the air defense system had already acted, but with poor results.
The 3rd air attack occurred at 1600 and the 4th air attack occurred on 16 April 1986.
Libya claims that a total of 20 aircraft were shot down during the last two attacks.
However, objective examination by Soviet specialists determined that a total of only 10 aircraft
were shot down.
A few of these crashed into the ground, but most of the aircraft went down over the
It was very difficult to use the "VEGA" anti-aircraft system during these attacks because the
aircraft approached at very low altitudes (50 m).
Qadhaffi ordered that the fighters not be used, he prohibited them from taking off; these aircraft
include more than 300 fighters, of which 80 alone are MiG-25s.
The attitude on Soviet technology is characterized in that, for instance, all French "Mirage" aircraft
are always carefully covered and maintained.
On the other hand, the modern Soviet MiG-25 aircraft are continuously exposed to inclement
weather, which has a negative impact on their continuous combat readiness under actual
meteorological conditions.
Secret – Classified Material! [stamp:] BStU
GVS-No. : A 456 721 Copy 5 page 4 19
The American aviation forces used a great number of "HARM" anti-radiation missiles launched
from aircraft at a range of 130 km from the target. However, they had only a minor effect because
15 of the 30 missiles used did not reach their targets.
The "Paveway" laser-guided bomb, used for the first time, was launched 60 km from the target.


– 4 –
In addition, "Bullpup" missiles with laser targeting devices were used; 30 to 40% of these did not
As a result of the employment of the above munitions, a total of five Libyan national air defense
anti-aircraft missile units were lost, specifically:
- 2 "Volchov" anti-aircraft missile units
- 1 "NEVA" anti-aircraft missile unit
- 1 "KUB" anti-aircraft missile unit, and
- 1 French "CROTALE II" anti-aircraft missile system unit.
Air Force Marshall Koldunov cited as reasons for the limited effectiveness of the Libyan air
defenses, in that only 10 of the 70 aircraft that were used were destroyed:
1. Poor command and control of LIBYA's air defense forces and weapons, lack of a clear mission, and
poor interaction.
2. Poor political perspective/morale among the crews and personnel manning the radar stations, missile
control stations, and anti-aircraft missile complexes.
Cowardice among some of the crews, who fled their positions in panic during the air attacks.
3. Insufficient level of training among air defense forces and consequently poor mastery of modern Soviet
4. Inadequate organization of radar reconnaissance over the MEDITERRANEAN. Minimum acquisition
altitude of radar field was only 250 to 300 m.
This meant that the extremely low-flying American aircraft were not acquired as targets.
(Due to its own arrogance, the Libyan military did not act on requests and recommendations put forth by
Soviet specialists to organize the radar field so that it would be possible to acquire targets at altitudes of
50 m and greater).
Secret – Classified Material! [stamp:] BStU
GVS-No. : A 456 721 Copy 5 page 2 20
5. LIBYA's fighters were not used to engage and destroy the intruding aircraft.
In conclusion, Air Force Marshall Koldunov stressed that there would be a thorough evaluation of the
military aspects of the US aggression against LIBYA pending the return of the group of Soviet specialists
that had been sent to LIBYA on 20 April 1986.
The information collected and lessons learned from this evaluation will be provided to the Ministers of
Defense for the Warsaw Pact nations.
[Translated from the original German by Grace Leonard, for the Cold War International History Project.]
Bombing of Libya

The [B]United States bombing of Libya (code-named Operation El Dorado Canyon) comprised the joint United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps air-strikes against Libya on April 15, 1986.[/B]


[Image: 180px-Libya_Bombing_Reagan_Meeting.jpg] [Image: magnify-clip.png]
President Reagan consults bipartisan Congress members the day before the strike.

[Image: 180px-F-111F_GBU-10_bound_for_Libya.jpg] [Image: magnify-clip.png]
Ground crew prepares a 48th Tactical Fighter Wing F-111F aircraft for an air strike on Libya.

After years of occasional skirmishes with Libya over Libyan territorial claims to the Gulf of Sidra, and years of vulnerability to Libyan-supported terrorism, especially the Abu Nidal group behind the Rome and Vienna airport attacks of December 27, 1985, the United States contemplated a military attack to send a message about support for international terrorism. In March 1986, the United States, asserting the 12-nautical-mile (22 km; 14 mi) limit to territorial waters recognized by the international community, sent a carrier task force to the region. Libya responded with aggressive counter-maneuvers on March 24 that led to the destruction of Libyan radar systems and missile attack boats. Less than two weeks later on April 5, a bomb exploded in a West Berlin disco, La Belle, killing two American servicemen and a Turkish woman and wounding 200 others. The United States claimed to have obtained cable transcripts from Libyan agents in East Germany involved in the attack.
After several days of diplomatic talks with European and Arab partners, President of the United States Ronald Reagan ordered the strike on Libya on April 14. Eighteen F-111F strike aircraft of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying from RAF Lakenheath supported by four EF-111A Ravens of the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing, from RAF Upper Heyford in England, in conjunction with twenty-seven A-6, A-7, and F/A-18 attack aircraft from the aircraft carriers USS Saratoga, USS America and USS Coral Sea on station in the Gulf of Sidra struck five targets at 02:00 on April 15, in the stated objective that their destruction would send a message and reduce Libya's ability to support and train terrorists. Commander TJ Coughlin and his strike group of A6 Intruders caused considerable damage to the Libyan Navy by sinking 2 Combattante Guided Missile Cruisers. Cdr. Coughlin is credited with the sinking of both of these ships.
The United States was denied overflight rights by France, Spain and Italy as well as the use of European continental bases, forcing the Air Force portion of the operation to be flown around France and through the Straits of Gibraltar, adding 1,300 miles (2,100 km) each way and requiring multiple aerial refuelings. Although unauthorised the inbound jets passed through Maltese airspace. The attack lasted about ten minutes. Several targets were hit and destroyed, but some civilian and diplomatic sites in Tripoli were struck as well, notably the French embassy [2], when a number of bombs missed their intended targets. When asked to comment about the near miss of the French Embassy, President Reagan reportedly quipped, "Well, the boys were tired!"

U.S. forces and targets

Target Planned Actual Aircraft Bombing Aircraft Hit Miss Azizyah barracks 9× F-111F 36× GBU-10 2,000 lb (910 kg) LGB 3× bombed
1× missed
4× aborts, 1× lost 13 3 Murat Sidi Bilal camp 3× F-111F 12× GBU-10 2,000 lb LGB all bombed 12 - Tripoli airfield
(fmr. Wheelus Air Base) 6× F-111F 72× Mk 82 500 lb (230 kg) RDB 5× bombed
1× abort 60 - Jamahiriyah (Benghazi) barracks 7× A-6E 84× Mk 82 500 lb RDB 6× bombed
1× abort on deck 70 2 Benina airfield 8× A-6E 72× Mk 20 500 lb CBU
24× Mk 82 500 lb RDB 6× bombed
2× aborts 60× Mk 20
12× Mk 82 - Air defense
networks Tripoli 6× A-7E 8× Shrike
16× HARM all aircraft fired 8× Shrike
16× HARM Benghazi 6× F/A-18 4× Shrike
20× HARM all aircraft fired 4× Shrike
20× HARM Totals 45 aircraft 300 bombs
48 missiles 35 bombed
1 missed
1 lost
8 aborts 227 hits
5 misses
48 homing missiles [2]

Libyan air defenses

The Libyan air defense network was extensive including:
  • 4 Long range SA-5 Vega anti-aircraft missile units with 24 launchers.
  • 86 SA-2 Volchov and SA-3 Neva anti-aircraft missile units with 276 launchers.
Covering Tripoli alone were:
  • 7 SA-2 Volchov anti-aircraft missile units with 6 missiles launchers per unit giving 42 launchers.
  • 12 SA-3 Neva anti-aircraft missile units with 4 missiles launchers per unit giving 48 launchers.
  • 3 SA-6 Kub anti-aircraft missile units with 48 launchers.
  • 1 SA-8 Osa-AK anti-aircraft regiment with 16 launch vehicles.
  • 2 Crotale II anti-aircraft units 60 launch pads
Cold War International History Project



It was claimed that the air strike killed at least 40 people in Libya. Forewarned by a telephone call from Malta's Prime Minister, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, that unauthorized aircraft were flying over Maltese airspace heading south towards Tripoli, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family rushed out of their residence in the Bab al Aziziya compound moments before the bombs dropped. Gaddafi escaped injury but his 15-month-old adopted daughter Hanna was killed, and two of his sons were injured.[3]
In July 2008, Gaddafi's son Saif al Islam announced that an agreement was being negotiated with the United States whereby Libya would make any future compensation payments to American victims of terror attacks conditional upon the settlement of claims by victims of the U.S. bombing of Libya in 1986.[4] On August 14, 2008 the resultant U.S.-Libya Comprehensive Claims Settlement Agreement was signed in Tripoli by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Welch, and by Libya's Secretary for American Affairs, Ahmad Fituri.[5]
In October 2008 Libya paid $1.5 billion into a fund which will be used to compensate relatives of the
As a result, President Bush has signed an executive order restoring the Libyan government's immunity from terror-related lawsuits and dismissing all of the pending compensation cases in the US, the White House said. [6]


Two USAF captains — Fernando L. Ribas-Dominicci and Paul F. Lorence — were killed when their F-111 was shot down over the Gulf of Sidra. On December 25, 1988, Gaddafi offered to release the body of Lorence to his family through Pope John Paul II. This turned out to be Ribas-Dominicci's body, which was returned in 1989. Lorence's remains were never found. The U.S. government stated that Libya denies holding Lorence's remains. [3]
In 2001, Theodore D. Karantsalis, a reference librarian at Miami-Dade College, enlisted the aid of Congressman Wally Herger's office to urge Libya to return Lorence's remains on behalf of his family and friends. Karantsalis also created a website and invited visitors to sign a petition to Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart seeking the return of Capt. Lorence's remains. On January 27, 2005, Karantsalis filed a federal lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) against the Department of Defense and the Department of the Air Force seeking "to know where Captain Paul Lorence's remains are located." Karantsalis had hoped to locate the remains before the 20th anniversary of Lorence's death.[7]


Libya responded by firing two Scud missiles at U.S. Coast Guard stations on the Italian island of Lampedusa which exploded far short of their targets. In Beirut, Lebanon, two British hostages held by the Abu Nidal Organization, Leigh Douglas, Philip Padfield, along with an American named Peter Kilburn were shot dead in revenge. In addition, journalist John McCarthy was kidnapped and tourist Paul Appleby was murdered in Jerusalem. Another British hostage named Alec Collett was also killed in retaliation for the bombing of Libya. Collett was shown being hanged in a video tape. His body was never found.
Gaddafi quashed an internal revolt, the organization of which he blamed on the United States. Although Gaddafi appeared to have left the public sphere for a while in 1986/87, it later emerged that he had significantly increased Libyan arms shipments to terrorist groups in this period – especially to the Provisional IRA.
The Libyan government was alleged to have retaliated by ordering the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Pakistan on September 5, 1986. The allegation did not come to light until it was reported by The Sunday Times in March 2004--days after British prime minister, Tony Blair, paid the first official visit to Tripoli by a Western leader in a generation.[8]
Then came the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988, which exploded in mid-air over the town of Lockerbie in Scotland. Iran was initially thought to have been responsible for the bombing, but two Libyans were charged in 1991, one of whom was convicted for the crime on January 31, 2001. The Libyan Government formally accepted responsibility for the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing on May 29, 2002, and offered $2.7 billion to compensate the families of the 270 victims.[9]


International response

The attack was widely condemned in strong terms. By a vote of 79 in favor to 28 against with 33 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 41/38 which "condemns the military attack perpetrated against the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya on 15 April 1986, which constitutes a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law."[10]
The Government of Libya said that the United States had fallen prey to the arrogance and madness of power and wanted to become the world's policeman. It charged that any party that did not agree to become an American vassal was an outlaw, a terrorist, and a devil. A meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement said that it condemned the dastardly, blatant and unprovoked act of aggression. The League of Arab States expressed that it was outraged at the United States aggression and that it reinforced an element of anarchy in international relations. The Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union in its declaration said that the deliberate attempt to kill Libyans violated the principles of international law. The Government of Iran asserted that the attack constituted a policy of aggression, gunboat diplomacy, an act of war, and called for an extensive political and economic boycott of the United States. Others saw the United States motive as an attempt to eliminate Libya's revolution.[11]
The Government of China felt that the U.S. attack violated norms of international relations and had aggravated tension in the region. The Government of the USSR believed that there was a clear link between the attack and U.S. policy aimed at subjecting countries to its diktat, at stirring up existing hotbeds of tension and creating new ones, and at destabilizing the international situation.
Some observers held the opinion that Article 51 of the UN Charter set limitations on the use of force in exercising the legitimate right of self-defense in the absence of an act of aggression, and affirmed that there was no such act by Libya. It was charged that the United States did not bother to exhaust the Charter provisions for settling disputes under Article 33. Others asserted that Libya was innocent in the bombing of the West Berlin discotheque. [12]
The U.S. received support from the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, and 25 other countries. Its doctrine of declaring a war on what it called "terrorist havens" was not repeated until 1998, when President Bill Clinton ordered strikes on six terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Margaret Thatcher's approval of the use of Royal Air Force bases led to substantial criticism, including an unprecedented story in The Sunday Times suggesting the Queen was upset by an "uncaring" Prime Minister. Gaddafi himself responded by saying "Thatcher is a murderer...Thatcher is a prostitute. She sold herself to Reagan".[13]
The overall European reaction to the United States’ bombing of Libya was extremely negative. Nearly every European government opposed the American attack. Public opinion in almost every state was overwhelmingly against the action. While the United Kingdom permitted the United States to use its bases to launch the attack, both France and Spain denied fly-over rights, giving rise to much anti-French sentiment in the United States. The West German government, although officially opposed to the attack, was somewhat ambivalent and understanding in post-attack statements by Helmut Kohl. Interestingly, only in France, which had history of conflict with Libya over Chad, was public opinion supportive of the U.S. action, with initially about 60% approving.
Although the Soviet Union was ostensibly in cooperation with Libya, it had, by the time of the Libya bombing, made its increasing ambivalence toward Libya apparent in public communications. Gaddafi had a history of verbally attacking the policy agendas and ideology of the Soviet Union, and he often engaged in various international interventions and meddlings that conflicted with Soviet goals in a variety of spheres. During a period where the Soviet Union was apparently attempting to lead a subtle diplomatic effort that could impact its global status, close association with the whims of Gaddafi became a liability.
In the entire crisis, the Soviet Union explicitly announced that it would not provide additional help to Libya beyond resupplying basic armaments and munitions. It made no attempt to militarily intimidate the United States, despite the ongoing American operations in the Gulf of Sidra and its previous knowledge that the United States might launch an attack. However, the Soviet Union also did not completely ignore the propaganda gift and it issued a standard denunciation of this 'wild' and 'barbaric' act by the United States.
After the raid, Moscow did cancel a planned visit to the United States by foreign affairs minister Eduard Shevardnadze. At the same time, it clearly signaled that it did not want this action to affect negotiations about the upcoming summer summit between the United States and the Soviet Union and its plans for new arms control agreements.

United Nations response to anniversary

Every year, between at least 1994 and 2006, the United Nations General Assembly scheduled a declaration from the Organization of African Unity about the incident,[14] but systematically deferred the discussion year after year until formally putting it aside (along with several other issues which had been similarly rescheduled for years) in 2005.[15]

1st anniversary

On the first anniversary of the bombing, April 1987, European and North American peace and solidarity activists gathered to commemorate the anniversary. After a few days of social and cultural networking with local Libyans, including a tour of Gaddafi's bombed house, the group gathered with other Libyans for a commemoration event.[16]

20th anniversary

Early on April 15, 2006 – to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing raid – a concert involving U.S. singer Lionel Richie and Spanish tenor José Carreras was held in front of Gaddafi's bombed house in Tripoli. Diplomats, businessmen and politicians were among the audience of what Libya dubbed the "concert for peace". The BBC reported Lionel Richie as telling the audience:
Hanna [Gaddafi's adopted daughter] will be honored tonight because of the fact that you've attached peace to her name.

Revelation of warning

In October 2008, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham revealed that Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi had warned Gaddafi two days before the attack that an American raid was coming. Italy had refused American use of its airspace for the strike. Giulio Andreotti, Italy's foreign minister at the time, and Margherita Boniver, foreign affairs chief of Craxi's Socialist Party, both confirmed Shalgham's statement.[18]
Dr. Stoney Merriman, retired chief of public affairs at the Pentagon during Operation El Dorado Canyon, alleged that immediately prior to the U.S. bombing of Libya, U.S. special forces rescued Quadaffi at his home, "to prevent an international incident if visiting dignitaries had been killed". Dr. Merriman was editor of the newspaper in Carthage, Tennessee, Albert Gore Jr's hometown, at the time of his revelation. "You wouldn't believe what really goes on at the Pentagon," Merriman advised. Dr. Merriman died shortly thereafter, of a sudden brain tumor, which was likely also the source of his illogical and logistically impossible claim.[4] This claim is dubious because it is easier and more cost effective to contact Gaddafi by telephone and tell him to leave his house, or to tell a pilot to miss his target, than it is to insert a team of operatives into hostile territory, have them penetrate the deep layers of security that surrounded the military dictator, then not only speak with the leader of that hostile nation, but also convince him that he needs to leave his house, and then extract the team after the hostile nation has just been attacked and gone to its highest state of readiness.


On May 28, 2008, the United States began negotiations with Libya on a comprehensive claims settlement agreement to resolve outstanding claims of American and Libyan nationals against each country in their respective courts.
On August 4, 2008, president George W. Bush signed into law the Libyan Claims Resolution Act[5], which had unanimously passed Congress on July 31. The Act provides for the restoration of Libya’s sovereign, diplomatic, and official immunities before U.S. courts if the Secretary of State certifies that the United States Government has received sufficient funds to resolve outstanding terrorism-related death and physical injury claims against Libya.
On August 14, 2008, the United States and Libya signed a comprehensive claims settlement agreement.[19]
Full diplomatic relations were restored between the two nations.


  1. ^ Pollack, Kenneth M. Arabs At War, Military Effectiveness 1948-1991 University of Nebraska Press, 2002
  2. ^ Bernard Weinraub. "U.S. Jets Hit 'Terrorist Centers' in Libya; Reagan Warns of New Attacks If Needed". NY Times.
  3. ^ "Hello Eddie, how is Mintoff?". Malta Today on Sunday. 2008-08-03. Retrieved on 2008-08-07.
  4. ^ "Libya, Italy to sign compensation deal: Gaddafi son". Yahoo! News. 2008-07-24. Retrieved on 2008-08-07.
  5. ^ "Libya, US Sign Compensation Agreement". The Tripoli Post. 2008-08-17. Retrieved on 2008-08-17.
  6. ^ "Libya compensates terror victims". BBC News. Retrieved on 2008-11-01.
  7. ^ "2006 - One Pilot Still In Enemy Hands". Contra Costa Times. 2006-03-11. Retrieved on 2008-08-07.
  8. ^ "Revealed: Gaddafi's air massacre plot".
  9. ^ "Security Council lifts sanctions imposed on Libya after terrorist bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772".
  10. ^ A/RES/41/38. Declaration of the assembly of heads of state and government of the organization of African Unity on the aerial and naval military attack against the Socialist Pe...
  11. ^ UN Chronicle, August 1986
  12. ^ United Nations Yearbook, 1986, Volume 40, Department of Public Information, United Nations, New York
  13. ^ Moloney, Ed (2002). A Secret History of the IRA. Penguin Books. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-141-01041-X.
  14. ^ "General Assembly Session 49 meeting 93". 20 December 1994.
  15. ^ "General Assembly Session 59 meeting 117". 12 September 2005.
  16. ^ US-Libya Relations / Bombing Anniversary Vanderbilt.
  17. ^ Libya concert marks US bomb raids, BBC News.
  18. ^ Italy Warned Libya of Bombing, Saved Qaddafi's Life (Update3) - Retrieved 4-November-2008
  19. ^ U.S. Department of State, Significant Events in U.S.-Libyan Relations, Sept 2, 2008[1]

See also

Further reading

External links

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