Khadafy’s forces kill four after aid ship docks in port
State Department says regime should allow civilian relief
MISURATA, Libya — Moammar Khadafy’s forces showered the port area of this besieged rebel city with rockets just minutes after an international aid ship docked yesterday, killing four people as part of the regime’s increasingly bloody attempt to choke off Misurata’s remaining lifeline.
The attack caused panic among hundreds of stranded migrant workers and fleeing Libyans who were trying to board the Red Star One, a ferry chartered by the International Organization for Migration. In the chaos, some families were separated and the boat had to redock twice to sort it all out.
The timing of the shelling suggested Libyan forces were deliberately trying to disrupt the evacuation. Othman Belbeisi, an official for the aid group, said rockets started flying just minutes after he and others stepped off the ferry. “The whole place was shaking and people started running in different directions,’’ he said.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the regime should cease hostilities in Misurata port and allow relief to civilians caught in the fighting.
He said the United States was making an additional $6.5 million in assistance available to help evacuate people from Misurata and for other operations in Libya.
On Tuesday, a senior Libyan official said the Libyan Army would do what is necessary to block sea access to Misurata, already besieged by land the past two months. Last week, Khadafy’s troops were caught laying sea mines, disrupting shipping as NATO struggled to clear a safe access route to Misurata’s port. The Red Star One had waited at sea for three days before risking the approach yesterday, aided by a tugboat.
Misurata is the main rebel stronghold in western Libya, which remains largely under Khadafy’s control, while the rebels have been holding on to most of the east. Since the uprising against Khadafy broke out in mid-February, the two sides have largely been locked in a stalemate. The international community’s bombing campaign, launched in mid-March, has kept Khadafy’s forces from advancing to the east, but has failed to give the rebels a clear advantage.
In Benghazi, the opposition stronghold in eastern Libya, rebel military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Bani depicted the bombing as a crime against humanity. He also reported heavy fighting in the southeastern town of Kufra.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court prosecutor said yesterday that he will seek arrest warrants in the coming weeks against three Libyans who appear to bear “the greatest criminal responsibility’’ for crimes against humanity in the current uprising.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council that the evidence establishes reasonable grounds to believe that widespread and systematic attacks are being committed against civilians by Khadafy’s security forces.
The Security Council voted unanimously on Feb. 26 to refer the Libyan crisis to the International Criminal Court and asked the prosecutor to report in two months.
Moreno-Ocampo said the evidence shows that government security forces have been systematically shooting at peaceful protesters, using the same tactics in multiple locations. He said systematic arrests, torture, killings, and disappearances of civilians have been reported in government-controlled areas including Tripoli, Al Zariyah, Zintan, and the Nafousa Mountains.