Shells rain on Misurata neighborhood

Artillery shells and rockets rained down on rebel-held Misurata on Monday, killing at least 12 people, as troops loyal to Col. Moammar Kadafi who fled the city over the weekend continued to launch bloody air attacks.

Kadafi's fighters, stationed outside the western Libyan city, shelled a residential neighborhood and a hospital well into the evening. The attacks left women and children dead, set a car ablaze, destroyed a house, and terrified aging female hospital residents whose rooms were struck by shrapnel.

Meanwhile, in the capital city of Tripoli, a NATO airstrike reduced parts of Kadafi's compound to rubble. A spokesman for the Libyan government called the bombing a failed assassination attempt; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said the air crews were seeking to destroy a communications headquarters used to coordinate attacks on civilians.

The rebels in Misurata, a ragtag force of middle-class professionals and students, waged an effective guerrilla battle last week to expel Kadafi's fighters from inside the city, where they had taken up positions in the main commercial district and at a university campus. The rebels cut off the Kadafi soldiers' access to one another, forcing them — low on weapons and food — to retreat starting Thursday to encampments that ring Misurata.

Kadafi's government said late Friday that it was handing the fight over to local tribes, but there was no sign of any such assault on Misurata. Instead, Kadafi's fighters began to fire rockets and artillery randomly into the once-wealthy port, now decimated by war.

A senior Libyan rebel military commander, Atia Mansouri, warned that NATO needed to do a better job of hitting Kadafi's weapons outside Misurata in order to protect the city's civilian population. "Kadafi will keep surrounding Misurata and striking us just for revenge," Mansouri said.

He predicted a lengthy artillery and rocket campaign against the port, unless NATO sent representatives to the city to better coordinate strikes. Mansouri complained that NATO was ignoring the rebels' intelligence on Kadafi's weapons sites, and warned that the Libyan leader could easily bring in more weapons to the farmland around Misurata and outsmart warplanes overhead, including two Predator drones sent by the United States.

The first strike Monday was at 1:30 a.m., when three shells slammed into a residential street, killing members of Muftar Bin Noor's family. One explosion wounded Noor and killed his 4-year-old son. Another shell torched an idling car, killing Noor's brother and sister and his 3-month-old son, who were all inside. The blast also killed a woman and her 4-year-old daughter and grandmother, who were about to get into the car.

On Monday afternoon, the car's charred remains sat in the street, with the door still flung open from the moment when Noor's family tried to escape. Women from a neighboring house screamed in shock.

Neighbor Abdul Fatal Fazzani had planned to get married next month. The shells damaged a house he was building for his bride, tearing a wall away and punching holes in the roof. His pet pigeons were killed.

Elsewhere, a rocket slammed into the grounds of the Ras Touba hospital, sending shrapnel flying into three rooms with elderly women.

A pair of captured Kadafi fighters were treated while under guard.

A teenage soldier with a knee wound writhed in pain and grasped an oxygen mask at Hikma hospital. Another fighter, paralyzed by a rebel bullet, lay in bed at Ras Touba. He suffered from renal failure after spending five days without eating when his unit ran out of food and water, said Dr. Abdelsalam Masoudi.

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