Some aid reaches Libya's Misrata despite snipers

RABAT Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:05am EDT

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RABAT (Reuters) - Aid organisations are able to deliver some supplies to the Libyan city of Misrata but are concerned because there are still government snipers in the city center, officials and rebels said on Friday.

"There is a fairly regular supply going into Misrata," Simon Brooks, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross operations in eastern Libya, told Reuters by satellite phone. "But we are deeply concerned about the reports we are receiving about fighting in the city."

The west Libyan port, the North African country's third biggest city, has experienced some of the heaviest fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi since the uprising began.

The casualties have overwhelmed the local medical clinic and prompted international concern about the civilian population.

The guns fell silent overnight after heavy fighting on Thursday, a rebel spokesman said on Friday.

"It has been a relatively quiet night. The last explosion we heard was an artillery round fired late in the evening," said Sami, reached by satellite phone on Friday morning.

"It is still difficult to get out of Misrata. The snipers are still hiding in buildings on Tripoli Street," Sami said. "It is the main thoroughfare that takes you to the city center."

"We don't know how many of them remain. The rebels have so far killed 30 of them."

Rebels say they have regained control of the port from government forces who seized it on Wednesday. The port is the city's lifeline for food and medical supplies, international officials say. Brooks said ICRC supplies were being shipped to the port.

The ICRC has asked the Libyan government for direct access to those suffering from the war so that it can provide them with aid. "This is being refused despite repeated efforts and dialogue with Tripoli," Brooks said.

Mustafa Gheriani, a rebel spokesman in Benghazi, said the Misrata port area was recaptured by the rebels but blockaded by Gaddafi naval forces on Thursday. He believed the naval forces had now pulled back and the rebels were trying to organize aid shipments by sea.

"Our main concern is Misrata and Zintan. They are under siege from many troops. They are starting to run short of basic needs," the spokesman said.

Residents say electricity, water and regular land and cell phone service to Misrata are not functioning. Reports from the city cannot be verified independently because Libyan authorities have prevented journalists from going there.

On Thursday, government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said the government was in total control of the city.

"Unfortunately, there is a hard core of violence. These people are al Qaeda affiliates, they are prepared to die, they want to die, because death for them is happiness, is paradise. They know they are going to die," he said.

Fighting has also affected a local clinic treating the wounded, witnesses said. An amateur video on YouTube which described a clip as from a medical clinic in Misrata showed a destroyed exterior wall in one corner of what appeared to be an examination room, with a gash of about a meter in height.

(Additional reporting by Angus MacSwan in Benghazi, Libya; editing by Tim Pearce)

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