Gadhafi Forces Kill 22 Rebels in Misrata Shelling

June 10, 2011 - 10:28 AM

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libyan government forces pounded the outskirts of the rebel-held city of Misrata on Friday, killing at least 22 people, a hospital physician said.

The doctor at Hikma Hospital, who would only give his first name, Ayman, said Moammar Gadhafi's forces used tanks, artillery and incendiary rockets in the bombardment of Dafniya, about 18 miles (30 kilometers) west of Misrata. He said at least 61 people were wounded in the attacks which began about 10 a.m. local time.

Gadhafi forces had renewed their shelling near Misrata on Wednesday. The city is one of the few footholds rebels have in western Libya and controls the country's largest port.

The doctor said residents had reported no sign of NATO aircraft in the Misrata region. There also were no reports NATO strikes in Tripoli, the capital. NATO had been pounding Tripoli and environs in recent days, stepping up backing for the four-month-old rebel uprising that seeks to oust Gadhafi from power after four decades.

Rebels have taken control of swaths of eastern Libya, although fighting has since come to a stalemate even with NATO support. Misrata remained one of the most important rebel footholds in the Gadhafi controlled west.

Government forces are surrounding Misrata on all sides but the north, where the city has access to the Mediterranean Sea for supplies and food through Libya's major port. Rebels have beaten back several government attempts to retake the city.

The Gadhafi forces appear to have decided to renew the assault on Misrata as Gadhafi has found his regime increasingly cornered under NATO bombardment in the capital.

In Norway, meanwhile, military officials said on Friday the country would scale down its fighter jet contribution the NATO force flying above Libya from six to four planes and withdraw completely from the NATO-led operation by Aug. 1.

The alliance decided last weekend to extend the Libyan mission for 90 days, into late September.

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Michael reported from Cairo.