Supplies running low in besieged Libyan rebel city

Food and fuel supplies are running low in the besieged western Libyan city of Misurata, where government shelling and rocket strikes on the port have slowed humanitarian deliveries, a rebel official here said Sunday.

The city has supplies of “basic foodstuffs” that might last about a month, and fuel was likely to be on hand for two to three weeks, Saddoun Misurati, an opposition spokesman, told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital.

Misurata has been under siege by forces loyal to Moammar Kadafi for almost two months. Its struggle has become emblematic of the revolt that has sought to oust the Libyan leader, who has been in power for more than 40 years.


Pro-regime troops based on the city outskirts have in recent days stepped up shelling and rocketing of the vital port, the spokesman said, slowing relief efforts via the city’s only lifeline. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has also accused Kadafi’s forces of mining the harbor in a bid to halt aid efforts.

More than 100,000 people have fled Misurata since the siege began, Misurati said, leaving perhaps 200,000 in the city.

The rebel spokesman said that more than 1,000 people had died in fighting in Misurata since the uprising began. That figure and others offered by the rebel official could not be independently verified.

Last week, Kadafi’s forces bombarded a key fuel depot in Misurata, causing a massive fireball and destroying three tanks containing gasoline and diesel. The strike did not wipe out reserves, Misurati said, because the insurgents had taken unspecified “precautionary measures.”

The city has suffered rolling blackouts, and long lines have formed for gasoline, officials said, but electricity continues to be generated and motorists are still able to purchase fuel.

On Sunday, Reuters reported that rebels and government troops were engaged in intense battles near the city’s airport, a stronghold for Kadafi loyalists, while a NATO airstrike targeting Kadafi’s forces struck east of the city. There was no word on casualties.

Elsewhere, the pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera reported that NATO jets had hit government targets near the western city of Zintan, which is also under rebel control.