Rebels warn NATO of Misrata "massacre"; 23 dead

Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:25am GMT

By Hamid Ould Ahmed and Mariam Karouny

ALGIERS/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Libyan rebels said a rocket attack on a residential district of Misrata killed 23 civilians on Thursday and warned of an impending government "massacre" if NATO does not intensify its attacks there.

A rebel spokesman said troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi appeared to be deliberately targetting civilians. Most of the dead were reported to be women and children, along with three Egyptian migrant workers waiting to be evacuated.

"A massacre ... will take place here if NATO does not intervene strongly," a rebel spokesman, who identified himself as Abdelsalam, told Reuters by telephone from Misrata.

It is hard to independently verify accounts from western Libya because journalists are prevented from reporting freely.

France and the United Kingdom, which are leading the coalition air strikes against Gaddafi's forces, have called for other NATO allies to help intensify NATO operations.

Rebels defending Misrata, their last major enclave in western Libya and the scene of heavy fighting in recent weeks, say they are worried by the absence of a clear military strategy to unseat Gaddafi.

Government forces unleashed a barrage of Russian-made rockets on Misrata's Kasr Ahmad district, located near the rebel-controlled port, at dawn and rebels said shelling continued in the city centre.

"The death toll has risen to 23 and dozens are wounded. Those killed are civilians and most of them are women and children. We now know that at least three Egyptans were killed in the attack," a rebel spokesman who identified himself as Gemal Salem told Reuters by telephone.   Continued...

<p>A rebel fighter with an amputated leg (R) moves into a new position along the front line at the western entrance of Ajdabiyah April 14, 2011. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh</p>
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