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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – A NATO official in Brussels on Friday called a Libyan claim that it downed a NATO helicopter “totally bogus.”“It’s another sign of a desperate regime,” said the NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They think that lies will get them out of the mess they find themselves in.” The claim, the official added, is “totally bogus.”

Quoting a military spokesman, Libyan state television had reported earlier in the day that Libyan forces shot down a NATO helicopter near the coastal town of Zlitan, according to Reuters News Service.

Zlitan is located about 100 miles east of Tripoli, the capital. The report said the helicopter apparently crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Libyan spokesman said it was the third aircraft to be shot down by his nation’s forces since NATO began its air campaign in late March. The alliance launched its campaign to stop the attacks on civilian targets seeking to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The alliance has acknowledged the loss of one aircraft during the campaign, and it attributed the loss to mechanical failure.

While disregarding the Libyan report outright, the NATO official said the alliance would keep up the pressure.

“They continue to attack civilians, which is why we are continuing our high-tempo of air strikes,” the official said. Libya “still continues to be a significant threat,” the official said. “We will maintain the pressure.”

doughertyk@estripes.osd.mil

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