Libya's Misrata hit by shell-fire: rebel spokesman

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2011 9:10 AM

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shelled the rebel-held city of Misrata on Thursday and dozens of civilians have been killed in the past few days when their homes were hit, a rebel spokesman said.

Misrata, the last big rebel strong-hold in western Libya, has been encircled by pro-Gaddafi forces for weeks and repeated Western air strikes aimed at protecting civilians there have not so far succeeded in halting the attacks.

"Massacres are taking place in Misrata," the rebel spokesman, called Sami, told Reuters by telephone.

"Artillery bombardment resumed this morning and is still going on. The (pro-Gaddafi) brigades could not enter the town but they are surrounding it," he said.

"Twenty civilians were killed yesterday after their houses were hit by bombardments. Many people were wounded." That death toll added to the dozens who, residents say, have been killed in fighting over the past 10 days.

Accounts from Misrata could not be independently confirmed because Libyan officials have prevented foreign journalists from reporting freely in the city.

Libyan officials deny attacking the civilians, but say they are trying to root out terrorists who have been holding the local population hostage.

State media reported this week that water supplies to Misrata, which have been cut for over week, had now been restored and that the city was "enjoying peace and stability."

But the rebel spokesman said that was not true. "Water to Misrata is still cut off. People have been getting water from a small station which can supply only a few residents," he said.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Jon Boyle)