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Libyan army pounds Misurata as Nato vows to oust Gaddafi

Press Trust of India  |  Tripoli 

The fighting intensified in Libya today as troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi shelled the besieged western town of Misurata and NATO bombed the capital Tripoli while the western alliance vowed to continue the military campaign till the embattled leader remained in power.

Amid differences among world powers over the air strikes in Libya, the leaders of the US, the UK and France made it clear that there can be no peace in the country till Gaddafi stepped down.

In a jointly written article published in the International Herald Tribune, US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron said NATO must maintain pressure on Gaddafi by continuing the military operations.

They said Libyans in cities like Misurata and Ajdabiya, continue to suffer "terrible horrors at Gaddafi's hands". Leaving Gaddafi in power would be an "unconscionable betrayal" of the Libyan people, they underlined.

"It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government," the leaders wrote in an opinion piece released yesterday.

"So long as Gaddafi is in power, NATO and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds," they said.

Appearing before cheering crowds, the Libyan leader's daughter Aisha dismissed "talk about Gaddafi stepping down", saying it was "an insult to all Libyans because Gaddafi is not in Libya, but in the hearts of all Libyans".

Even as the 28-member NATO alliance squabbled over intensifying the military operations, it launched three new air strikes in and around the Libyan capital, striking a missile battery and two other targets, Al Jazeera said.

France and Britain want to extend air strikes to the logistics and decision centres of Gaddafi's army, rather than start arming Libyan rebels, French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet was quoted as saying by the pan-Arab channel today.

Forces loyal to Gaddafi pounded Misurata with rockets, killing at least eight people, Al Jazeera quoted a local doctor as saying.

He said seven other people, including children and old people, were wounded in the attacks. Residents said around 120 rockets hit the city early today morning.

Pro-government troops also shelled the coastal city yesterday, with dozens of Grad-type rockets, killing at least 23 people, the Al Jazeera quoted a rebel spokesman as saying.

The report quoted witnesses as saying that the Gaddafi loyalists were firing shells on Tripoli Street, a thoroughfare which cuts to the city centre from the western outskirts.

Aid organisations have warned of a humanitarian crisis in the city, the only major rebel stronghold in western Libya, where hundreds of civilians are said to have died in the over six-week siege.

The city faced sever food shortages and electricity and communications lines to the city have been cut.

"We have seen some pictures and some very graphic videos of wounds and casualties in Misurata - stuff we really can't broadcast because they're so graphic - but they do tell you about how bad the situation is in that city," Al Jazeera said.

First Published: Fri, April 15 2011. 18:19 IST