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Africa

Rebel-held Misrata under siege from Gaddafi forces

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-04-13

As foreign ministers meet in Doha to discuss how the international community should respond to the conflict in Libya, FRANCE 24 reports from rebel-held Misrata, a town holding out after weeks of attacks by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

In rebel-held Misrata in western Libya, FRANCE 24 correspondents report on the daily attacks that have reduced much of the centre of the city to bullet-riddled rubble.

Misrata is the third-largest in Libya with a population of 550,000, has been under constant attack for the past five weeks.

FRANCE 24’s Alexandra Renard and Mathieu Mabin, reporting from the besieged city, say rebels holding out in the city's old town.

“They came yesterday and tried to remove the barricades from the street," one fighter told FRANCE 24. "But we destroyed their tanks with rocket launchers and killed several men.”

Lying on the ground around the barricades, the dead bodies of soldiers loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi testify to the intensity of the fighting.  

Rights groups and residents say that the weeks of heavy fighting has resulted in dozens killed while food, water and medical supplies are becoming scarce.

Criticism of NATO

Ahead of a Libyan contact group meeting of foreign ministers in Qatar on Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said NATO was not doing enough to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces.

“NATO must fully play its role, and it is not doing so sufficiently,” Juppé told France Info radio on Tuesday.

The meeting takes place amid continued bloodshed in Libya and especially in Misrata, the only town in western Libya where the rebel forces still have a foothold.

NATO rejected France’s criticism on Tuesday, saying its forces had destroyed four of Gaddafi’s tanks near the southern rebel-held town of Zintan, while British jets patrolling near Misrata had fired missiles and destroyed one tank.

‘Contact group’

The Libyan contact group is made up of European powers, allies from the Middle East and North America, and international organisations including NATO. Envoys from the African Union – which has tried to broker a ceasefire that was rejected by the rebels, who are seeking Gaddafi's ouster – will also attend.

The group will hear from leaders of the pro-democracy movement in the country and Libya’s former foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, who defected to the UK last month, is expected to attend.

According to British Foreign Minister William Hague, the group will discuss how to “maintain the international unity while bringing together a wide range of nations in support of a better future for Libya”.
 

Date created : 2011-04-13

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