Africa

NATO Airstrike Kills Libyan Rebels In Misrata

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Some of the heaviest fighting between Libyan rebels and troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi has been in Misrata. Marie Colvin, of The Sunday Times of London, tells Renee Montagne a rebel position was hit by NATO forces Wednesday.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Let's get an update now on Libya and the besieged port city of Misrata. It's seen some of the heaviest fighting between rebels and the forces of Moammar Gadhafi. And there are reports that a NATO air strike has mistakenly hit a rebel position there.

Joining us on her satellite phone now from Misrata is Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London.

And what can you tell us about that NATO air strike?

Ms. MARIE COLVIN (Correspondent, Sunday Times of London): Well, I was out there last night. It happened about mid-afternoon. NATO had bombed the coast right by the port. Gadhafi's troops had actually tried to make an end run from the east, to attack Misrata. NATO had stopped them on Tuesday. Yesterday, the rebels had gone in and taken that position as a blocking point. They put up a big rebel flag, which is the old Libyan flag, and also put N on top of their vehicles. And they thought that their position had been called in.

Late in the afternoon, the NATO plane came in and two missiles went right into their position. It was in a salt factory. There're eleven dead.

The rebels, since then, have tried to almost play it down, because to them what's important is the struggle against Gadhafi. But it does show, you know, how difficult it is for NATO to distinguish between Gadhafi's forces and rebels fighting his forces.

MONTAGNE: And what are the general conditions there in Misrata now, regarding food and supplies for most of the people?

Ms. COLVIN: Well, I'm living on canned tuna fish and beans, as is most of the population. Cans and dried food, there are absolutely no vegetables. Strangely enough, the aid ship that came in yesterday brought tons of onions. No one's starving.

I've talked to sort of elders who are trying to organize the city, badly bombed, so that's quite difficult. There's no phones here at all. You've literally got to drive somewhere to find to find out what's happening. They figure they've got enough food for - to last for another month.

The hospital has basics, but is really running out of any kind of specialist equipment or medicines.

There's a nervousness because the city is being bombed. But you know, unlike the east where there is an outlet, the city is under siege. We're surrounded on three sides and there's just the port, which now is also being bombed. So it is going to be increasingly difficult, particularly if that port keeps getting hit and there's no outlet.

MONTAGNE: Now, a couple of days ago, we heard the Gadhafi forces were pulling back and that rebels were claiming victory. What about now?

Ms. COLVIN: Gadhafi forces have been driven out of the center, in literally building-to-building, floor-to-floor fighting. That was along Tripoli Street, which is the main boulevard through the city. They have been driven out by the rebels, but that just means that the center is now essentially free of his militia and army.

They've been driven out, but what's happened now is the siege has remained, but his forces have drawn back and they're simply lobbing in long-range, Grad missiles, they're called - and long-range artillery. Rather like a medieval siege. They're just - it's just pouring into - pounding the city, residential neighborhoods. So these front lines, that siege line, remains the same, but the city is able to breathe a bit more, because you don't have sort of pockets of Gadhafi soldiers here, simply taking pot-shots at anyone who moves.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Ms. COLVIN: Good to talk to you.

MONTAGNE: We've been talking to Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London who is in Misrata, Libya.

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