Libya apparently pulls troops from Misrata so it can pound it with rocket fire

MISURATA, LIBYA - APRIL 19:  Rebel fighters ta...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi pounded Misrata on Sunday, hours after the Libyan government claimed its troops had pulled back from the besieged city to let tribal leaders try to negotiate a political resolution, or unleash a "bloody" assault.

Using multi-barrelled rocket launchers and tanks positioned at the edge of Misrata, loyalist troops fired hundreds of missiles at the city. At least six people, most of them civilians, were pronounced dead at the main hospital by midday. Dozens of injured were also treated. "There has been a lot of shelling," said Anas Rajab, a doctor. "It looks like today will be another crisis day."

As the attacks continued, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the Libyan rebel national council, said that Kuwait is to contribute 50m dinars (£110m) to the rebel council.

The renewed bombardment contradicted a claim by Libya's deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, that "armed forces have ceased operations". The move, he said, was to give a 48-hour window for tribal leaders from the region south of Misrata to negotiate with the rebels over access to the port. If no deal could be reached by Monday night, the deadline, the tribes would launch an assault to "liberate" the city, Kaim said.

Tribal leaders have not confirmed any intervention, and rebel leaders in Misrata are sceptical about the government's statements. But Kaim said early on Sunday that the tribes were "trying to get in contact with the rebels".

I was skeptical of the suggestion that the government forces were actually leaving Misrata. That skepticism appears warranted. You also have to ask where NATO forces are when the bombardment is taking place. You would think the rocket launchers and tanks would be attractive targets.

The organization appears to be slow in reacting to moves made by the government forces and there are not enough Predators in the area to have the kind of persistence needed to hit these targets.
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