Dozens dead in Misurata as NATO appeals for more jets

Dozens dead in Misurata as NATO appeals for more jets

Deadly attacks on Misurata killed at least 23 people on Thursday, according to local residents, as NATO appealed for more jets from its member-states to continue its airstrikes against Moamer Gaddafi's forces, dpa reported.

Around 6000 people were now waiting to be evacuated from the beleaguered Libyan city of Misurata, according to estimates by the United Nations.

Meanwhile at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin Thursday, NATO said more high-precision attack aircraft was needed to keep the pressure on Gaddafi's troops.

NATO reportedly struck at sites in the capital Tripoli on Thursday.

According to residents and local media in the rebel stronghold city of Benghazi, the morning attack by Gaddafi's forces on the western city of Misurata's port lasted nearly two hours.

"We've been supplying food, medical supplies and clothing to families who fled Misurata and Ajdabiya," said Mohammed Aal-Amani of the Libyan-based Attar in Benghazi.

"Some of the families are still visibly traumatized. One family of Sudanese origin arrived here after the father, who was a doctor, was threatened by Gaddafi forces," al-Alami told the German Press Agency dpa.

Meanwhile, an oil tanker was due in the eastern most city of Tobruk late Thursday to collect an oil shipment for export by the opposition, which is in control of a few eastern oil ports.

Qatar has said it would market the rebel's oil, which is reportedly destined for Italian shores.

The opposition's Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC) spokesman Mustafa Gheriani said there is no confirmation of increased attacks by Gaddafi loyalists on Misurata's port.

"Witnesses have reported attacks today. We do not have confirmation of this, but it would be of no surprise to us to learn that attacks on the port itself are increasing after Tripoli said it would step up attacks," said the ITNC's Gheriani.

The port manager in Benghazi told dpa that Misurata's port is only about 50 per cent safe, whereas the Benghazi port is 100 per cent safe for aid ships to dock.

The Libyan government warned Wednesday that any ships docking in Misurata with Tripoli's permission would not be guaranteed safety.

Witnesses told dpa that 35 Qatari military officers arrived at a rebel camp in eastern Libyan on Thursday, the same day that a top Libyan official said the Gulf State had sent missiles to rebels.

Qatari military officers were seen in the eastern most city of Tobruk, according to a source in the city who wished to remain anonymous.

Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled el-Kaim had earlier told reporters that Qatar had provided rebels in Benghazi with French-made anti-tank missiles.

He also said there were international experts in Libya training the rebels in a camp some 1,000 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli.

The opposition ITNC declined to comment, saying only that negotiations for weapons and training are in their final stages.

Qatar was the first Arab country to recognize the ITNC as Libya's sole legitimate representative and has aided Western-led airstrikes on Gaddafi's forces with fighter jets.

Rebel forces have been battling for weeks against Gaddafi's troops, urging international assistance beyond NATO airstrikes aimed at imposing a UN approved no-fly zone.

The opposition has been unable to fully secure eastern cities such as Brega and Ajdabiya, but remains in firm control of Benghazi and cities to its east. Western cities, including the capital Tripoli, remain mostly in the hands of Gaddafi.

According to the ITNC, Gaddafi's army is somewhere between the eastern cities of Ajdabiya and Brega.

"But the situation could change in the next day or two depending on whether NATO decides to change its approach," said Gheriani.

The opposition in Libya has accused NATO of not doing enough to protect rebel fighters and civilians trying to advance westward onto Tripoli.

A meeting of the chiefs of the United Nations, European Union, Arab League and African Union met in Cairo on Thursday to discuss ways forward on the Libya crisis, but no agreement was reached over how to achieve a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the Libyan Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that European Union sanctions on Libyan oil and gas "increases the suffering of the Libyan people of all denominations."

However, Libyan officials in Tripoli stressed that the country had enough gold reserves and other assets to face sanctions.

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