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Libya's Misrata Bombarded Despite Government Claims to Halt Operations


A Libyan rebel fighter carries a heavy machine gun in the besieged city of Misrata, Libya, April 23, 2011

A Libyan rebel fighter carries a heavy machine gun in the besieged city of Misrata, Libya, April 23, 2011

Rockets rained down on Libya's western rebel-held city of Misrata Sunday, despite a government claim that it had halted operations against rebels there.

Witnesses in Misrata reported heavy shelling and gunfire in the city that has seen hundreds killed in two months of a government siege.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said earlier Sunday the army had suspended operations against rebels in Misrata but had not left the city, the country's third-largest.

Kaim said troops stopped to enable tribal elders to negotiate with the rebels. He said if the rebels didn't surrender in 48 hours, the tribesmen would fight them in place of the army.

Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 evacuees from Misrata arrived in the opposition's eastern stronghold of Benghazi Sunday on a ship chartered by the International Organization for Migration.

The ship carried stranded migrant workers and wounded civilians. More than 800 of the evacuees are nationals of Niger.

On Saturday, doctors said fierce fighting killed at least 24 people in Misrata.

The United States announced it had carried out its first Predator drone strike in Libya Saturday. NATO said the attack by the unmanned aircraft destroyed a multiple rocket launcher near Misrata.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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