March 8, 2011 / 6:59 PM / 9 years ago

Misrata resident says Libyan troops move toward Sirte

TRIPOLI, March 8 (Reuters) - Some Libyan troops besieging the rebel-held city of Misrata left on Tuesday driving east towards Sirte with other pro-Gaddafi troops coming from Tripoli, a resident told Reuters by telephone.

Misrata, the largest population centre in western Libya not under Tripoli’s control, was calm on Tuesday as an unknown number of troops from the 32nd Brigade commanded by Muammar Gaddafi’s son Khamis left, said the resident named Mohamed.

“We saw several army vehicles, including vans for the transportation of the soldiers, leave today the areas around Misrata and taking the direction of Sirte,” he said.

“Before they had left, they were joined by other vehicles carrying pro-Gaddafi forces that came from Tripoli,” Mohamed said. His account could not immediately be verified.

It was not clear why the troops left Misrata, a city of about 300,000 two hours’ drive east of Tripoli.

Mohamed said Tuesday saw a “precarious calm” in Misrata.

“The youths (rebels) stand alert. We are still surrounded by pro-Gaddafi forces and they (rebels) are guarding all entry points and the city’s main arteries,” he said.

Food and fuel supplies were plentiful, Mohamed said, but there were increasing shortages in drugs and medical equipment.

Sirte, a Gaddafi stronghold, is about halfway down the Mediterranean coast between Misrata and oil port of Ras Lanuf, where pro-Gaddafi warplanes bombed rebel positions on Tuesday. (Reporting by Sohail Karam, writing by Tom Heneghan; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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