Govt forces pound Misrata

A chartered ship evacuated nearly 1,000 foreign workers and wounded Libyans from Misrata on Monday as government artillery bombarded the besieged city that has come to symbolise the struggle against Muammar Gadhafi’s regime.

“We wanted to be able to take more people out but it was not possible,” said Jeremy Haslam, who led the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) rescue mission.

“Although the exchange of fire subsided while we were boarding ... we had a very limited time to get the migrants and Libyans on board the ship and then leave.”

A rebel spokesman said bombardments pounded Misrata for a fifth day on Monday after shelling killed 17 people and wounded about 100, mostly civilians, on Sunday.

Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata is the rebels’ main stronghold in the west and has been under siege by pro-Gadhafi forces for the past seven weeks. Evacuees say conditions there are becoming increasingly desperate and hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed.

“The Gadhafi forces are shelling Misrata now. They are firing rockets and artillery rounds on the eastern side—the Nakl el Theqeel (road) and the residential areas around it,” Abdubasset Abu Mzeireq said on Monday morning.

The “Ionian Spirit” steamed out of Misrata carrying 971 people, most of them weak and dehydrated migrants mainly from Ghana, the Philippines and Ukraine, heading for the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

It was second vessel chartered by the IOM, which took out nearly 1,200 migrants from Misrata last Friday.

Among the rescued group were 100 Libyans, including a child shot in the face, the IOM said in a statement.

“We have a very, very small window to get everyone out. We do not have the luxury of having days, but hours,” said IOM Middle East representative, Pasquale Lupoli.

“Every hour counts and the migrants still in Misrata cannot survive much longer like this.”

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