Libyan confusion over Misurata shelling

April 24, 2011 at 7:51 AM
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TRIPOLI, Libya, April 24 (UPI) -- Shelling was reported Sunday in the rebel-held Libyan port city of Misurata despite government claims the army had suspended its barrage, residents said.

Forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi have besieged the city for six weeks, but rebels, with the help of NATO airstrikes, claim to retain 80 percent control of the country's third-largest city, Britain's Sky News reported.

Residents told the BBC shelling began overnight into Sunday morning.

A day earlier, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told reporters in Tripoli the army had been ordered to suspend fighting in the city to allow for 48 hours of negotiations, but soldiers had not retreated.

Saturday's fighting killed 28 people and injured more than 100 others, a doctor at an emergency clinic told Sky News. He said the daily mortality average is 11.

Meanwhile, NATO reported it had carried out more airstrikes around Tripoli and four other cities. The United States said its first use of an unmanned drone aircraft in Libya had knocked out a rocket launcher near Misurata, the BBC said.

Anti-government protests began in mid-February and Gadhafi refused to step down. The United Nations authorized NATO to protect civilians, and the alliance said in a news release it has flown more than 3,000 sorties in the past month.

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