April 27, 2011 / 10:20 AM / 9 years ago

Ship tries to rescue migrants from Libyan port

* IOM ship docks in Misrata after night offshore due attacks

* Aims to evacuate 1,000 migrants, wounded Libyans

GENEVA, April 27 (Reuters) - A ship sent to evacuate a thousand migrants from Misrata docked in the besieged city’s port on Wednesday after spending the night offshore waiting for shelling to ease off, an international aid agency said. At least one migrant from Niger was reported killed and 10-20 injured in the pounding of Misrata port on Tuesday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

“The Red Star One has just docked and is unloading aid supplies, including ambulances. The port is calm, there was no shelling overnight or this morning,” Jean-Philippe Chauzy, spokesman of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said.

The Albanian-registered vessel, which will also evacuate Libyans wounded in the fighting, was expected to head to the eastern rebel-held town of Benghazi later in the day, he said.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi tried to deny rebels in Misrata their only lifeline to the outside world by shelling the port and nearby areas on Tuesday, rebels and residents said. [ID:nLDE73P1TM]

At least 1,500 migrants, most from sub-Saharan Africa including Niger and Chad, have gathered at the port some 10-12 kms east of the city awaiting rescue, according to the IOM.

It would be the fifth evacuation by the Geneva-based agency. The ship is also carrying some 160 tonnes of food and medical supplies for civilians in Misrata, an isolated western enclave of rebel forces.

A separate ship chartered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was forced to leave Misrata hastily on Tuesday due to the shelling, with just 630 migrants on board, a spokesman said.

“They were in the process of loading more people when the captain took the decision to leave the port for security reasons,” ICRC spokesman Steven Anderson said.

The ICRC was forced to leave behind a wounded French journalist, and a team of three doctors sent from Benghazi to treat him, as they were not yet on board, he said.

The IOM ship is prepared to evacuate the Frenchman and doctors among its passengers, IOM’s Chauzy said.

To date, the IOM has evacuated 4,577 migrants and injured Libyans via its lifeline which has also delivered 1,470 tonnes of supplies including ambulances.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Ralph Boulton

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