By Arab News
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi are staging a “massacre” in the besieged city of Misrata, evacuees said Monday, as Turkey said it was trying to broker a cease-fire to halt the bloodshed.
Evacuees from Misrata described the city as hell, with Qaddafi’s forces using tanks and snipers against residents, littering the streets with corpses and filling hospitals with the wounded. “You have to visit Misrata to see the massacre by Qaddafi,” said Omar Boubaker, a 40-year-old engineer with a bullet wound to the leg, brought to the Tunisian port of Sfax by a French aid group. “Corpses are in the street. Hospitals are overflowing.”
Misrata, the last major city in western Libya held by anti-government forces, rose up with other towns against Qaddafi in mid-February, and is now under attack by government troops.
“I could live or die, but I am thinking of my family and friends who are stranded in the hell of Misrata,” said tearful evacuee Abdullah Lacheeb, who had serious injuries to his pelvis and stomach and a bullet wound in his leg.
Turkey said it was seeking to broker a cease-fire as an envoy from Qaddafi’s government arrived in Ankara from Athens. Turkey was also in contact with the opposition’s National Council, and expected representatives to visit Ankara “in the coming days,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said both sides had “conveyed that they have some opinions about a possible cease-fire”.
Beyond a willingness to talk, there was no sign of what Libya might offer to end the war that is bogged down on a front line around the eastern oil town of Brega.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who had spoken to Greek officials after Qaddafi envoy held talks in Athens, dismissed the Libyan overtures.
After a meeting with Ali Essawi, a member of the Libyan National Council, Frattini said Italy, a former colonial power in Libya, backed the the opposition. “A solution for the future of Libya has a precondition — that Qaddafi’s regime leaves and is out and that Qaddafi himself and his family leave the country.” He said an interim government headed by one of Qaddafi’s sons was “not an option.”
Kuwait’s foreign minister said his country will officially recognize the Libyan opposition within days, making it the second Arab state after Qatar to formally acknowledge the group.
After chasing each other up and down the coast road linking the oil ports of eastern Libya with Qaddafi’s tribal heartland further west, the two sides are stuck around Brega, a sparsely populated settlement spread over more than 25 km.
Opposition fighters pushed the army out of much of Brega and toward the outskirts of the sprawling oil town on Monday in a slow advance west, but were still facing bombardment with each step.