April 16, 2011 / 1:29 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Red Cross team arrives in rebel-held Misrata

(Adds ICRC confirmation, background)

TRIPOLI, April 16 (Reuters) - A Red Cross team arrived in rebel-held Misrata on Saturday to assess the situation in the besieged western Libyan city.

Aid groups have described an increasingly desperate situation for many trapped civilians in Misrata, with few areas safe from the daily bombardment by government forces and growing needs of food and medical supplies.

Both the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a Libyan government spokesman in Tripoli confirmed the visit to the coastal city, 200 km (120 miles) east of the capital.

Earlier this week, the Red Cross said it was opening an office in Tripoli at the invitation of the Libyan government and would send a team to Misrata to help civilians trapped by fighting.

“I confirm that they arrived half an hour ago by road from Tripoli,” ICRC spokesman Christian Cardon said in Geneva.

The ICRC team in Misrata was led by Jean-Michel Monod, who has headed the ICRC delegation in Tripoli for the last few weeks, he said.

A ship chartered by the independent humanitarian agency docked in Misrata a week ago, bringing enough medical supplies to treat 300 patients.

In Tripoli, government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told Reuters:

“The Libyan army took them to a specific place into the city and the Red Cross went to the other side (the one controlled by the opposition).”

He said the Red Cross team would issue a report on its preliminary findings, but gave no further details.

Government forces have laid siege to Misrata for about seven weeks. Hundreds of civilians are believed to have been killed.

Libyan officials say they are fighting armed militia with ties to al Qaeda bent on destroying the North African country, denying that government troops are shelling Misrata. (Reporting by Mussab Al-Khairalla in Tripoli and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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