Misrata airport captured
MISRATA, Libya – Libyan rebels captured the strategic Misrata airport today after a fierce battle with Moamer Gaddafi’s troops, marking their first significant advance in weeks.
The airport of Libya’s third-largest city, which had been under siege by loyalist forces for almost two months, fell to the rebels after fighting that raged through the night, an AFP correspondent said.
By afternoon, insurgent fighters were in full control, as people celebrated the victory in the streets and others set ablaze tanks left behind by Gaddafi troops.
The airport’s capture is significant, as the rebel-held city had been nearly cut off from the outside world, with the port, which has been a repeated target of shelling, being the only route in or out.
Human rights groups have warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in the city of 500 000 people, facing acute shortages of food and medical supplies.
Insurgent forces captured 40 Grad rockets from the regime troops, whose mortar fire wounded 13 rebels, the AFP correspondent said.
A spokesman for the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi confirmed that Misrata airport had been captured.
“We took full control of Misrata airport and pushed back Gaddafi forces around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the airport,” said Abdel Busin.
“The airport is in our control but is not free because it is still within range of Grad rockets” fired by retreating Kadhafi forces.
The AFP correspondent said the airport had been “completely destroyed” and that fires were burning around it. (AFP)