News24

Misrata port attack, 3 refugees dead

2011-04-26 22:28

Misrata - At least three African refugees were killed on Tuesday when forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fired rockets at the besieged city's port, a medic and a Western journalist said.

The latter, who asked not to be identified, told AFP he had seen "the remains of tent and burnt plastic, lots of smoke" and "at least three dead" taken to a clinic after several Grad rockets slammed into the area.

A medical source confirmed there had been three dead and also spoke of "around 20 wounded".

Several Grads hit the port 12km east of the city and an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) ship come to rescue refugees stood offshore as a security precaution.

The bombardment came at about 13:30 GMT, when journalists counted around a dozen blasts.

Nato jets were overflying the city of Misrata, where explosions were also heard after a 24-hour period of relative calm. A French journalist at the port said there had been at least one air strike.

The IOM ship had been due to take on board 550 African refugees, of whom some 2 000 are reported to be still stranded in the besieged city.

"Nato asked that the IOM boat leave the port," said a rebel source, adding that "around 20 vehicles" containing Gaddafi loyalists were approaching.

The vessel had also been due to evacuate a French journalist who was shot in the neck last week by a stray bullet and critically wounded.

Fighting had waned earlier in Misrata, where rebels said they had ejected forces loyal to the Libyan strongman to the city's outskirts.

Misrata remains besieged by Gaddafi's troops to the east, south and west, with its only access to the outside world by sea. The airport, which has been badly damaged, is in the hands of regime forces, according to the rebels.

Tuesday's Grad attack came as a minibus containing seven Western journalists and four Libyan escorts was at the port, and three nearby blasts caused them to dive for cover beneath the vehicle.