News / Africa

    Gadhafi Forces Attack Libyan Port City of Misrata

    Smoke rises after a rocket exploded near a Libyan rebel fighter position on the outskirts of Zlitan near Misrata's western front line
    Smoke rises after a rocket exploded near a Libyan rebel fighter position on the outskirts of Zlitan near Misrata's western front line

    Government forces in Libya have carried out a heavy assault on the rebel-held city of Misrata on the same day that NATO vowed to keep up its air campaign against the embattled Libyan leader.

    Witnesses say the port city came under heavy shelling Wednesday as thousands of pro-Gadhafi troops advanced from the south, east and west.   

    Doctors and rebel sources say the shelling of Misrata killed at least 10 people and wounded more than 25 others.

    The violence came as NATO defense ministers, meeting in Brussels, vowed to continue their aerial operations against forces loyal to Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance is preparing for a Libya without the authoritarian leader.  The NATO chief said Mr. Gadhafi's departure is no longer a question of "if" he goes, but rather "when" he goes.

    A NATO statement said the alliance is committed to providing "all the necessary means" and "maximum operational flexibility" to sustain its military campaign in Libya.  The NATO allies sought broader support and additional contributions to the effort.

    NATO is operating under a U.N. mandate that calls for taking all necessary measures other than occupation to protect civilians and civilian areas from attack by Mr. Gadhafi's forces.

    NATO warplanes attacked targets in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, overnight and on Tuesday, carried out daytime airstrikes that were some of the most intense since the coalition operation began in March.  

    However, the Libyan leader vowed Tuesday to continue fighting.  He said in an audio broadcast that the Libyan people will not surrender.

    Meanwhile, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says evidence shows that Mr. Gadhafi ordered mass rapes of women considered disloyal to his regime.  The prosecutor said Wednesday investigators are looking into whether the Libyan leader provided soldiers with Viagra-like medicines in order to promote the rape of women.

    Separately, the U.N.'s special envoy for Libya arrived in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi Wednesday for talks with opposition leaders.  Jordanian Abdul Ilah al-Khatib came from Tripoli, where he reportedly held talks with officials from Mr. Gadhafi's government.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is traveling to the United Arab Emirates, where the 22-nation Libyan Contact Group holds talks on Thursday, including on how to assist the Libyan rebels opposing Mr. Gadhafi.  The group agreed last month to set up a fund to provide the rebels with food, medicine and military supplies.

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

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