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'Bloodshed on the street, all death': A desperate plea for help as Gadhafi moves in

A dairy and ice cream factory in the port area of Misrata on fire amid a bombardment by Gadhafi's forces, according to information provided by the opposition Freedom Group.
A dairy and ice cream factory in the port area of Misrata on fire amid a bombardment by Gadhafi's forces, according to information provided by the opposition Freedom Group.Provided by Freedom Group
/ Source: staff and news service reports

A Libyan "citizen journalist" in the city of Misrata made a desperate last plea for international help late Friday, saying large numbers of people were dying as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi bombarded and fought their way into the city.

In a mainly Arabic-language message — — the man said "families, people are dying, no one is protecting us ... there is bloodshed on the street, all death."

"Misrata is calling, calling for help. I swear the sky is black (with) random bombing, Misrata is calling. Large numbers of people are dying," he said. "Where are you people?"

Sounding distressed, he said "my mental state is gone."

"I swear, my sister, yesterday, families, a whole family, two twin girls, girl, son, mother ... all shattered by Grads (rockets), the father is critically injured in hospital," he said.

"I am going to post this warning one last time ... Misrata is calling you! Please help Misrata! Where is Sarkozy? Where is Obama? NATO is doing nothing!" the man added.

"Where are you people? Where is the East? .... I didn't know it was like this, why all this? Young kids, youths still in school, learning, are being killed," the man added. "Gadhafi is crazy, he is killing people."

The man is a member of the Freedom Group, which was able to film in the Qasr Ahmed port area of Misrata.

An activist serving as a media liaison for the Freedom Group said the man was a "citizen journalist" who "does not fight against Gadhafi with a gun, but supports the resistance."

Freedom Group . The group said it showed a dairy and ice cream factory in Qasr Ahmed on fire after it was hit. The sound of explosions and heavy gunfire can also be heard in the video.

Gadhafi's men were in control of the city center, while the rebels were clinging to positions in the port area. Al-Jazeera satellite TV showed video of two armored vehicles parked in a debris-filled street.

100 rockets
An official rebel spokesman, Abdelbasset Abu Mzereiq, told Reuters by phone that Gadhafi's troops fired at least 100 Grad rockets into Misrata Saturday.

"They fired Grads at an industrial area this morning, at least 100 rockets were fired," Abdelbasset Abu Mzereiq told Reuters by telephone.

He said no casualties had been reported from Saturday's bombardment.

Misrata is the rebels' only major bastion in the western part of Libya. Pro-Gadhafi forces have laid siege to it for seven weeks after cities across the coast rose up against the Libyan leader's four-decade rule in mid-February.

Human Rights Watch said it had evidence that Gadhafi's forces were firing cluster munitions into residential areas of Misrata.

It published photographs of what it said were Spanish-produced cluster bombs, which release grenades designed to explode into fragments and kill the maximum number of people.

Another rebel spokesman, Abdelsalam, who is in Misrata, said pro-Gadhafi forces had on Friday also shelled the road leading to the port, a lifeline for trapped civilians and the main entry point for international aid agencies, killing eight people.

"Today was very tough ... Gadhafi's forces entered Tripoli Street and Nakl al Theqeel road," he said by phone, referring to a main Misrata thoroughfare.

"Witnesses said they saw pro-Gadhafi soldiers on foot in the city center today. Except for snipers, they usually stay in their tanks and armored vehicles," the spokesman said.

A government reconnaissance helicopter had flown over the city, he said, despite a no-fly zone mandated by the U.N. Security Council and enforced by NATO warplanes.

Late on Friday, an aid ship brought nearly 1,200 Misrata evacuees to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, just a fraction of those stranded and desperate to escape, an official of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

Thousands await evacuation
Up to 10,000 people still needed to be evacuated from Misrata, IOM aid coordinator Jeremy Haslam said. Continued bombardment made it impossible to get into many areas of the city, he said.

"We threw out the textbook, basically. We couldn't get to the most vulnerable, those who need to get out fastest, because it was too dangerous," Haslam said.

Gadhafi loyalists have been firing randomly from their positions in the city, forcing people to leave their homes, said a city resident.

Once a building is empty, it is being taken over by government troops, said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. He said government troops have also targeted groups of civilians in the streets, including people standing in line outside a bakery.

He said rebel-held neighborhoods are becoming increasingly crowded. "Now you can find houses with more than 10 families in one house," he said.

In the east, rebel military leader, Abdel Fattah Younes, said his forces were engaged in fierce fighting in Brega, west of Benghazi, and said he hoped he would have "good news" soon.

"We have people who are positioned at the entrance to Brega, they have cleared out some snipers. We've basically cleared out Gadhafi's forces from the eastern outskirts," rebel commander Jibril Mohammed Jibril said on Saturday on the fringes of Ajdabiya, the nearest town to Brega still under rebel control.

A rebel at the entrance to Ajdabiya said rebels were still being ambushed by government forces along the main highway linking the two towns.

Artillery fire was heard coming from the direction of Brega, but it was unclear who was firing, he said.