Libyan officials deny killing civilians in Misrata; say they are fighting armed gangs and Al Qaeda sympathisers
Forces loyal to Libyan leader
Muammar Gaddafi tried to deny rebels in the city of Misrata
their only lifeline to the outside world by shelling the port
and the areas around it on Tuesday, rebels and residents said.
Misrata, the biggest rebel stronghold in the west of Libya
still resisting Gaddafi's forces, is encircled on three sides
and depends on its Mediterranean port - under fragile rebel
control - to bring in supplies.
Gaddafi's forces have pulled out of the centre of Misrata
after weeks of shelling and gun battles failed to root out rebel
fighters who harass government troops from the cover of
But the withdrawal appears to have been only tactical, with
pro-Gaddafi forces positioning themselves on the edge of the
city and using heavy artillery to bombard the port and the area
around it in the east of Misrata.
Rebel spokesman Abdelsalam said the insurgents appeared to
have held off Gaddafi's forces in fierce fighting during which
at least three people were killed and 10 wounded. A NATO air
One resident, Mohammed Ibrahim, said the NATO planes had
struck a convoy of scores of jeeps, destroying some and forcing
others to retreat to the east.
Several containers were destroyed and some cars damaged in
the bombardment of the port. The shelling stopped after
nightfall, but it was unclear whether that was just temporary.
A rebel spokesman called Bashir said Gaddafi's forces were
using Grad missiles -- Russian-made munitions fired in multiple
rounds from launchers on the back of trucks -- to attack the
Libyan officials deny killing civilians in Misrata, saying
they are fighting armed gangs and al Qaeda sympathisers who are
seeking to destroy the country.
A doctor in the city, called Aimen, told Reuters that
Gaddafi's forces were conducting "continuous shelling to the sea
port" and that the bombardment was being done at long-range.
Misrata, Libya's third-biggest city, is about 200 km (130
miles) east of the capital. Hundreds of civilians and fighters
have been killed there since the city rebels against Gaddafi's
rule in February, turning it into a symbol of resistance.
The NATO military alliance says it is doing what it can to
protect civilians in the city but Gaddafi's forces have split up
into small units and parked their armour next to buildings,
making it hard for warplanes to find clear targets.
NATO planes bombed Khoms, about halfway between Tripoli and
Misrata, on Tuesday, state news agency Jana said.
Misrata experienced some of the bloodiest fighting in the
two-month siege at the weekend, with medics saying nearly 50
people were killed. Witnesses described bodies lying in the
streets and doctors struggling to cope with the wounded.
The Qatar-based Al Jazeera television station on Tuesday
afternoon broadcast live pictures from Misrata of women and
children waving the green, black and red flag adopted as a
symbol of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion.
Demonstrators held up photos of people they said had been
kidnapped by government forces, and they said they would carry
on their struggle against "the tyrant".