Explosions, gunfire as battle rages for Missrata airport

AFP , Friday 29 Apr 2011

Loud explosions and gunfire rocked the Libyan city of Missrata on Friday as fighting between rebels and Mummer Gaddafi's forces raged for control of the airport, an AFP correspondent said.

The battle, just southwest of the city limits, followed overnight barrages of rocket and mortar fire launched by Gaddafi's forces on the besieged city, 215 kilometres, (132 miles) east of Tripoli.

AFP journalists reported heavy detonations from the airport area at around midday, and said the fighting was becoming more intense.

Western Misrata also came under seemingly indiscriminate mortar and rocket fire on Friday as a NATO warplane flew overhead, witnesses and medics said.

Gaddafi's forces were pushed back from Misrata by the rebels and a series of NATO air strikes on Monday but remain within rocket range of the city.

The rebels said earlier in the week they had secured the port and their next objective was to take control of the airport, which is still in the hands of government troops.

"Attack is the best form of defence," said Ibrahim Bet-Almal, who heads the rebel military forces in the area.

" Gaddafi is sending reinforcements to the region every day," he added.

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