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Heavy fighting in Libyan town of Misrata

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1 Heavy fighting in Libyan town of Misrata on Sat 09 Apr 2011, 1:02 am

CJCorka


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Heavy fighting broke out in the besieged Libyan town of Misrata on Friday, with four civilians killed, as loyalist forces sought to dislodge rebels, insurgent sources and an AFP correspondent said.

The fighting in Misrata came hours after government forces shelled the edge of Ajdabiya, further to the east, forcing insurgents to retreat, and as a debate raged over how well NATO air forces are enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone.

"There is an intense exchange of fire with light arms, rockets and heavy artillery between the rebels and the regime's army," said the correspondent, who was among a group of journalists brought to Misrata by Libyan authorities.

The correspondent said they were about 5km into the town that extends about 30km along the Mediterranean coast.

As they arrived at a hospital, where they had been brought to see casualties from the fighting, an officer escorting them was lightly wounded by a sniper.

"We hit the dirt before heading back the other way," he said.

Meanwhile, a source in the insurgent stronghold of Benghazi said four people, including two children, had been killed in Misrata and 10 others wounded.

"Gaddafi forces continue to fire blindly on the houses of Misrata," the rebel source said. "Today, four martyrs fell, including two children under age four.

"They died in their homes while, paradoxically, we have not had any victims at the front," he said, adding that one person had been killed and 24 wounded on Thursday.

The source said that, "at dawn, loyalists began firing rockets and tank shells on the city, after which there was fierce fighting on the coastal road".

He repeated criticism of NATO air forces, who are enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians, saying "civilians are being killed in Misrata".

"We want France to take command of the operations in Misrata," he said. "France must take the initiative (because) its forces are much more effective than those of NATO."

Earlier, rebels in Misrata criticised NATO for what they said was its lack of response to a relentless pounding by Gaddafi forces for more than a month.

"We have officially informed NATO and have assumed responsibility for any presence of civilians, but they have not acted so far," a spokesman told AFP.

Misrata, about 215km east of Tripoli, has seen fighting for more than 40 days since the start of the uprising against Gaddafi. Doctors said last week that 200 people had been killed there since the fighting began.

NATO was already under criticism by the opposition after its warplanes hit rebel tanks on Thursday near the oil town of Brega, killing four people, wounding 14 and leaving six others missing.

In Ajdabiya, hundreds of kilometres to the east, rebels had regrouped on Friday morning after many of them and residents of the town had fled a day earlier. They tried to push westward towards Brega but were forced back by loyalist shelling.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday called the bombing an "unfortunate incident".

"I strongly regret the loss of life," Rasmussen said of the strike, labelled by rebel military commander General Abdelfatah Yunis as a NATO "error".

The operation's deputy commander, British Rear Admiral Russell Harding, refused to apologise, saying the alliance was unaware rebels were using tanks and that it was becoming hard to distinguish between the two sides on the road.

The rebels said they were "not seeking an apology but an explanation".

"We are not questioning the intention of the NATO," rebel spokesman Shamsiddin Abdulmolah told AFP.

"It appears that there has been a breakdown of communication, perhaps due to the visibility on the ground... and that the positions of our tanks have not make clear to the NATO," he said.

Yunis insisted on Thursday night that the rebels had told NATO they were moving T-55 and T-72 heavy tanks from Benghazi to Brega.

A source close to key Western envoys in Benghazi who are in regular contact with the opposition Transitional National Council said "the problem is there are no official direct links" between the rebel military leadership and NATO.

The source said communications equipment was due in Benghazi on Friday to give the rebels a link to a European capital, and that messages to NATO could be passed through that channel as an interim measure.

In Benghazi, around 400 protesters chanted "Down with NATO" in reaction to the Brega bombing.

"NATO is not very effective. Why didn't it attack Gaddafi's forces? Why did it hit our freedom fighters?" asked one demonstrator, Anwar Mali, 25.

"Obama, thanks. Juppe, thanks. Sarkozy, thanks," said a 55-year-old protester, Neima al-Misrati, intimating that US leader Barack Obama and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Alain Juppe were more active in the rebels' cause than NATO.

With little tactical headway being made by the rebels despite NATO support, General Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command, said in Washington on Thursday it was unlikely they could launch an assault on Tripoli and oust Gaddafi.

Asked at a Senate hearing about the chances that the opposition could "fight their way" to Tripoli and replace Gaddafi, Ham replied: "Sir, I would assess that as a low likelihood."

His comments underscored growing concern in Washington and European capitals that the conflict is heading for stalemate, with Gaddafi firmly in control in Tripoli and badly organised rebels unable to turn the tide.

Washington on Friday hit Libya's premier and its oil and finance ministers with sanctions, in a fresh bid to fracture Gaddafi's inner circle.

Meanwhile, a UN human rights team set up to investigate alleged violations in Libya will leave on Sunday from Geneva on a field mission, the head of the team, Cherif Bassiouni, said on Friday.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council had unanimously decided to set up the investigation into suspected crimes against humanity after Libya's army and air force fired on civilians.

Two Russian reporters for the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily detained in Ajdabiya earlier on Friday by Libyan rebels were released, the newspaper said.

Tripoli confirmed it is holding four journalists and promised to release them soon, said the online news site GlobalPost, which employs one of the detained journalists.

The four, two from the United States, a Spaniard and a South African, went missing on April 4.

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2 Re: Heavy fighting in Libyan town of Misrata on Sun 10 Apr 2011, 6:26 pm

Hyp3rn0va

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I read about this in a newspaper when I was bored. Japan and Libya are the main subjects in the news these days because of what's been going on.

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3 Re: Heavy fighting in Libyan town of Misrata on Mon 11 Apr 2011, 1:33 am

CJCorka


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Yeah, i read off a website, so i thought i might copy it here Very Happy

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4 Re: Heavy fighting in Libyan town of Misrata on Tue 12 Apr 2011, 9:25 pm

Hyp3rn0va

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That's all you ever do in the Current Affairs. LoL. Next time cut shorter bits of info out.

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