Historic Libya site shelled, say rebels

2011-06-11 22:29

Benghazi - Forces loyal to Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi are attacking the western city of Ghadames which boasts a Unesco World Heritage site, rebels said on Saturday.

"Gaddafi's forces are shelling the archaeological city of Ghadames for the first time since the outbreak of the revolution," the rebels said in a written statement.

Famous for its Roman-era ruins, the oasis town of Ghadames known as the "pearl of the desert" lies some 600km  southwest of the capital Tripoli, Gaddafi's stronghold.

"The people of Ghadames appeal to Unesco and international organisations to protect the ancient city, after receiving credible reports that members of the Sahrawi tribes in [Gaddafi's] troops intend to tamper with historical monuments in the city," it said.

AFP was unable independently to verify that an attack was under way.

The rebel statement stressed that "Unesco declared Ghadames a protected archaeological site because it is the third oldest archaeological city in the world".