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Fighting in besieged Libyan city rages on
Civilians reportedly killed in shelling as Tripoli accuses NATO of killing 45 people with raid on Gaddafi's compound.
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2011 18:18
Dozens of people have been killed in the past two months in Misurata amid calls for more NATO action [EPA]

Intense fighting continues in the beseiged western Libyan city of Misurata, with at least six people reported killed in the Ras Ammar neighbourhood by shelling blamed on forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

Residents of the neighbourhood said that shelling started at around 1am local time on Monday and lasted for an hour. Civilians trying to escape in a car were killed when a shell landed nearby.

The car carrying a husband, wife and daughter was caught near the explosion, the residents told the Associated Press news agency. The mother, sister and grand-daughter of another family were also killed as they tried to get into the same car.

The battle for Misurata, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the past two months, has become the focal point of the armed rebellion against Gaddafi since fighting elsewhere is deadlocked.

Images of civilians being killed and wounded by Gaddafi's heavy weapons, have spurred calls for more forceful international intervention to stop the bloodshed.

NATO's mandate from the UN is to try to protect civilians in Libya, split into a rebel-run east and a western area that remains largely under Gaddafi's control.

While the international coalition's air attacks have delivered heavy blows to his army, they have not halted attacks on Misurata, Libya's third largest city, with a population of 300,000.

The latest attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces came two days after they announced their withdrawal from the city.

They claimed they were sending in armed tribesmen instead.

Amid continued calls for more international intervention, NATO jets struck a building early on Monday inside Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli, in what a government press official said was an attempt on his life.

Foreign journalists were brought to the scene when firefighters were still working to extinguish flames in a part of the ruined building a few hours after the attack.

The press official, who asked not to be identified, said 45 people were hurt in the raid, 15 of them seriously, and some were still missing. His claims could not be independently confirmed.

Gaddafi was shown on state television later in the day, with his spokesman saying that he is "safe and healthy".

"The leader is working from Tripoli," Mussa Ibrahim, the spokesman, said. "The leader is well, is very healthy, is leading the battle for peace and democracy in Libya."

Nato statement

Gaddafi's compound has been struck before, but NATO forces appear to be stepping up the pace of attacks in Tripoli in recent days.

In Brussels, a NATO spokesman confirmed that the alliance's jets were increasingly targeting facilities linked to Gaddafi's government while his forces remained stalled on the battlefield.

"We have moved on to those command-and-control facilities that are used to co-ordinate such attacks by regime forces," the spokesman said, referring to the Bab al-Azizyah raid.

A target nearby, which the government called a car park but which appeared to cover a bunker, was hit two days ago.

The US, Britain and France say they will not stop their air campaign over Libya until Gaddafi leaves power.

The US, which has taken a backseat in the air war since turning over command to NATO at the end of March, is under pressure to do more. This week it deployed armed Predator drone aircraft, which fired for the first time on Saturday.

On the government's part, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader's son, struck a tone of defiance, claiming that Gaddafi has "millions of Libyans with him" and that NATO's mission was doomed to fail.

"The bombing which targeted Muammar Gaddafi's office today ... will only scare children. It's impossible that it will make us afraid or give up or raise the white flag," he was quoted as saying by the Jana state news agency on Monday.

"You, NATO, are waging a losing battle because you are backed by traitors and spies. History has proved that no state can rely on them to win."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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