Pro-Gaddafi troops bombard rebel-held city stronghold
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi mounted an intense artillery bombardment of rebel-held Misrata yesterday and pro-Gaddafi troops attacked shops and homes in the city centre, residents said.
Misrata is the last big rebel stronghold in western Libya, but after weeks of shelling and encirclement, government forces appear to be gradually loosening the rebels' hold on the city, despite Western air strikes on pro-Gaddafi targets.
One resident said an attempt by government forces to take control of the city centre had been fought off by rebels but that afterwards pro-Gaddafi forces started indiscriminate shelling of Misrata's port and the city centre.
"They used tanks, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds and other projectiles to hit the city today. It was a random and very intense bombardment," a rebel spokesman called Sami said.
"We no longer recognise the place. The destruction cannot be described.
"The pro-Gaddafi soldiers who made it inside the city through Tripoli Street are pillaging the place, the shops, even homes, and destroying everything in the process.
"They are targeting everyone," he said.
Al Jazeera television station quoted another rebel spokesman, Abdulbasset Abu Mzereiq, who said five people had been killed, including a six-year-old child, in a car hit by shellfire.
Accounts from Misrata, Libya's third biggest city about 200km east of Tripoli, could not be independently verified because Libyan authorities have not allowed journalists to report freely from the city.