Libya: Gaddafi troops launch heavy assault on Misurata 'killing 30 rebel fighters'

April 11, 2011 - 0:0

Troops loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi launched a heavy assault on the coastal city of Misurata on Saturday, killing at least 30 rebel fighters, according to a spokesman for the Libyan rebels.

Misurata, 125 miles (200km) east of the capital Tripoli, is the last rebel bastion in western Libya. Gaddafi's forces appear bent on seizing the city and crucially its port, which some analysts say Gaddafi needs if he is to survive a long conflict.
Identifying himself as Abdelsalem, the spokesman said government forces attacked three different parts of the city before rebel fighters beat them back.
“Today they (government troops) attacked Misurata on three fronts. Medical workers and rebels told me that at least 30 rebel fighters were killed in Misurata today,” said Abdelsalem.
A second rebel spokesman, Saadoun, disputed the figure and said the day's rebel death toll was eight confirmed and 10 unconfirmed.
The fighting centered on Tripoli street, a major artery running into the centre of Misurata that both sides have been fighting to control, as well as a road leading to the port and a neighborhood called Kharouba, he added.
Despite the heavy losses, the rebels were buoyed by the apparent intensification of NATO air strikes on government forces who have laid siege to the city for more than six weeks.
“I have to say that the NATO forces have changed since yesterday, we are sensing a positive change. They have bombed at least four sites held by Gaddafi's forces in Misurata,” a rebel called Mustafa Abdulrahman told Reuters by telephone.
Coalition aircraft also attacked a target in the southern outskirts of the city, a Libyan official said. “This smoke is from a NATO air strike which hit today,” the official said, pointing to a plume of black smoke. In Brega region, in the east of the country, two rebel helicopters violating the no-fly zone were shot down by Gaddafi forces, according to a government minister.
The “insurgents used two helicopters that were shot down in the Brega region,” deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaaim told a news conference here.
Mr. Kaaim hit out at the NATO forces in charge of applying Security Council Resolution 1973 imposing the air exclusion zone over Libya, saying: “NATO on Saturday permitted the rebels to violate this resolution and use combat helicopters.”
Claiming that NATO was siding with the rebels, Mr. Kaaim continued: “Our question to NATO: does this resolution concern only the Libyan government or the two sides?”
(Source: Daily Telegraph)