Gaddafi forces shell Misrata; 'kill 12 Libyan rebels'

Regime offensive on rebel-held western city follows lull in NATO bombing of Tripoli; Spain recognizes rebel government.

Libyan Rebel Misrata 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Libyan Rebel Misrata 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TRIPOLI - Thousands of troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi advanced on the rebel-held western city of Misrata on Wednesday, shelling it from three sides in attacks that killed at least 12 rebels, a rebel spokesman said.
There was no immediate comment from Gaddafi's government.
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"Misrata is under heavy shelling ... Gaddafi forces are shelling Misrata from three sides: east, west and south," rebel spokesman Hassan al-Misrati told Reuters from inside the town.
"He has sent thousands of troops from all sides and they are trying to enter the city. They are still outside, though."
He added that 12 rebels had been killed and 26 wounded.
he offensive followed a lull in NATO bombing of Tripoli on Wednesday, after 24 hours of some of the heaviest bombardments of the Libyan capital since air strikes began in March.
NATO defense ministers met in Brussels on Wednesday, but there were few signs of willingness to intensify their Libya mission, which has so far failed to oust Gaddafi.
The alliance says the bombing aims to protect civilians from the Libyan leader's military, which crushed popular protests against his rule in February, leaving many dead.
But with officials like British Foreign Secretary William Hague talking explicitly of Gaddafi being forced out, critics say NATO has gone beyond its UN mandate to protect civilians.
Western powers are lining up behind the rebels. Spain on Wednesday said it had recognized their National Transitional Council as the country's only representative.
"I'm here today to confirm that the National Transitional Council is the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people," Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told reporters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Wednesday.
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