Libyan Forces Shell Rebel-Held Misrata, Killing at Least 22

Posted June 11th, 2011 at 2:00 am (UTC-5)
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Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi pounded the rebel-held city of Misrata Friday, killing at least 22 people and wounding dozens more, according to a doctor.

Witnesses say the loyalists deployed tanks, artillery and incendiary rockets in trying to gain control of the key city, one of the few footholds the rebels hold in western Libya.

Meanwhile, new NATO airstrikes sent up plumes of smoke in the capital, Tripoli, 200 kilometers to the west, in a continuation of the Western allies' heightened effort to force Mr. Gadhafi from power.

There was no indication Mr. Gadhafi was ready to end his reign, but Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government has offered him “guarantees” if he were to leave the country.

He did not specify the nature of the guarantees. But he said Turkey would help Mr. Gadhafi get to where he “would like.” Mr. Erdogan said he was still awaiting a reply from Tripoli.

Even as NATO airstrikes shook the Libyan capital, Norway announced it will end its air support commitment to the NATO mission. The Norwegian defense ministry said it will withdraw all six of its fighter jets from the NATO-led operation by August 1.

Officials with the NATO mission denied on Friday a Libyan government report that pro-Gadhafi forces had shot down a NATO helicopter in the western town of Zlitan.

On Thursday, allied and Arab nations pledged more than $1.1 billion to help Libya's opposition council and civilians affected by the country's conflict.

The 22-member Libya Contact Group announced the series of financial measures as it met in the United Arab Emirates to plan for a Libya without Mr. Gadhafi.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said talks were under way with people close to Mr. Gadhafi that have raised the “potential” for a transition of power. Russian special envoy Mikhail Margelov said he had recently met with rebel leaders in Benghazi and was planning to meet with members of Mr. Gadhafi's government to explore ways to end the unrest.