Libya: Three killed in Misrata clashes, rebels say

Forces loyal to Gaddafi fire over 100 Grads at rebel-held city; Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy acknowledge new mission goes beyond UN mandate.

By REUTERS
April 16, 2011 17:46
3 minute read.
Libyan rebel with anti-aircraft gun

Libyan rebel with anti-aircraft gun 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)

 
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BEIRUT - Rebels said pro-Gaddafi forces fired mortars at residential areas in Misrata on Saturday and that three people were killed in clashes in the coastal Libyan city.

A rebel spokesman, Gemal Salem, said forces loyal to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi targeted a dairy factory and another that makes cooking oil. It was not immediately possible to independently verify their allegations.

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"The (Gaddafi) forces are still firing mortars at residential areas. There are clashes in Tripoli Street. Three people were killed today and 25 wounded," the spokesman said.

"He wants to starve the people it seems, his forces targeted the dairy factory and the factory that produces cooking oil, in addition to this his forces shelled three bakeries ...," he said.


Earlier Saturday, forces loyal to Gaddafi fired at least 100 Grad rockets into Misrata, a rebel spokesman said, in a third day of heavy bombardment of the besieged city.

"They fired Grads at an industrial area this morning, at least one hundred rockets were fired. No casualties are reported," Abdelbasset Abu Mzereiq told Reuters by telephone.

Misrata is the only major bastion of the rebels in the western part of Libya. Pro-Gaddafi forces have laid siege to it after the city rose up in revolt along with others against Gaddafi's four-decade rule in mid-February.

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More than 100 rockets landed in the city on Friday and rebels said government forces had reached the city centers.

Human Rights Watch said it had evidence Gaddafi's forces were firing cluster munitions into residential areas of Misrata. It published photographs of what it said were Spanish-produced cluster bombs, which release grenades designed to explode into fragments and kill the maximum number of people.

Mussa Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman, dismissed the allegations, saying: "I challenge them to prove it."

Late on Friday, an aid ship brought nearly 1,200 Misrata evacuees to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, just a fraction of those stranded in the city and desperate to escape, an official of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), who was on board the Greek ship, said.

There were likely to be 8,000-10,000 migrants who still needed to be evacuated from the city, Jeremy Haslam, an IOM aid coordinator said. The continued bombardment made it impossible to get into many areas of Misrata, he said.

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"We threw out the textbook, basically. We couldn't get to the most vulnerable, those who need to get out fastest, because it was too dangerous," Haslam said.

Obama: NATO allies will force Gaddafi from power

On Friday, US President Barack Obama acknowledged the military situation on the ground in Libya had reached stalemate three weeks into the war, but said he expected NATO allies to force Gaddafi from power eventually.

Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy published a joint newspaper article vowing to continue their military campaign until Gaddafi leaves power. They acknowledged their aim of regime change went beyond protecting civilians, as allowed by a UN Security Council resolution, but said Libyans would never be safe under Gaddafi.

Obama told an interview with the Associated Press: "You now have a stalemate on the ground militarily, but Gaddafi is still getting squeezed in all kinds of other ways. He is running out of money, he is running out of supplies. The noose is tightening and he is becoming more and more isolated."

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