In Libya, Foreign Journalists Taken To Misrata

In Libya — some of the fiercest fighting has occurred in the city of Misrata. It's about 130 miles away from Tripoli. Misrata is the only place in western Libya where rebels were hanging on under intense bombardment from government forces. But Monday, the Libyan government took a busload of foreign journalists to Misrata in hopes of demonstrating that the rebels had been routed. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro speaks with Melissa Block

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

When our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. Those words tonight from President Obama making his case to the American people for the military intervention in Libya.

Meanwhile, in Libya, fierce fighting continued in the city of Misrata. It's in western Libya, about 130-mile drive to the east of Tripoli. Misrata is the only place in western Libya where rebels had retained control under intense bombardment by Gadhafi forces. But today, the Libyan government took a busload of foreign journalists there in hopes of demonstrating that the rebels had been routed.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was on that trip. And as she got on the line with us, you could hear the sounds of war.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Clearly, the city is still contested. We're hearing quite a lot of gunfire, smoke rising in the distance, and the evidence of the fierce battles that have taken place here over the past few weeks are everywhere. I'm seeing buildings that are pockmarked with shellfire and bullet fire.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

And - sorry, there's a lot of shooting going on here right now. Still, this city is partially definitely in rebel hands.

We were brought here to show that, indeed, it is not completely in rebel hands, that loyalists to Gadhafi control part of it. And I can confirm that. We're on a street now called Tripoli Street, which has been one of the most contested streets in the city.

(Soundbite of car horn)

BLOCK: There have been a lot of concerns, Lulu, because Misrata has been under siege for some time now, about what's happened with the civilian population there. Can you give us any thoughts on that?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have not been able to speak to any of the civilian population because, frankly, I haven't seen any civilian population. We've been going through blocks and blocks of streets that are completely and utterly empty, except for men in fatigues carrying guns. There seems to be no evidence of civilian life, at least in this part of the city on Tripoli Street.

BLOCK: Are you seeing evidence of NATO or U.S. air strikes?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Absolutely. The soldiers here tell us that they have been hit several times. In fact, we've just heard a very large explosion and we've seen tanks destroyed by the side of the road. We've seen large military carriers destroyed by the side of the road, clearly hit by something larger than what the rebels seem to have.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

BLOCK: What did we just hear?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What we just heard is one of the people here shouting, you know, long live...

Unidentified Man: Long live, Moammar.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Long live Moammar Gadhafi. The people here are loyalists and they have been taken here to show that this is firmly under Gadhafi's control.

BLOCK: It sounds like there's chanting behind you or is that the pro-Gadhafi supporters you were talking about?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes. We've been taken to what we believe to be the last checkpoint that the Gadhafi forces actually control. And they have brought supporters of Moammar Gadhafi here in one of these scheduled...

(Soundbite of car horn)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...one of the scheduled celebrations. There is a camera and it's showing it live on state television.

(Soundbite of car horn)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The message clearly is that Moammar Gadhafi still controls Misrata.

BLOCK: You use said, Lulu, that you're on Tripoli Street. Where exactly are you? Are you in a vehicle? Are you standing outside?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm standing outside in the middle of the street; the buses literally driven into this area through many, many eerie streets. I'm standing on a satellite phone talking to you right now.

(Soundbite of car horn)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that's our bus and the driver telling us that it is time to move on, I'm afraid.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro-Navarro reporting from the city of Misrata, east of Tripoli. Lulu, thanks so much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.

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