No let-up in Misurata shelling despite army ‘halt to fighting’

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi bombarded the rebel-held port city of Misurata on Sunday despite government claims the army halted its operations.

At least 36 people have been killed and more than 100 injured by the government bombardment in Misurata in the last two days, and the rebels say fighting in the city – the only major rebel-held city in western Libya – has intensified, Al Jazeera reported.

A rebel spokesman said Gaddafi’s forces had begun a “random bombardment” of the city center and three residential areas in the early hours of Sunday.

On Saturday, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told reporters in Tripoli the army had been ordered to halt fighting so that tribal leaders could negotiate with the rebels.

He said however the soldiers would not retreat.

“The armed forces have not withdrawn from Misurata. They have simply suspended their operations,” he was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying.

Saturday saw some of the bloodiest fighting yet, with 28 people killed and scores injured.

Earlier today, U.S. Republican Senator John McCain called on Washington to step up military pressure on government forces in Libya, saying Gaddafi should be “aware his life is in danger,” while independent Senator Joe Lieberman said that “NATO has got to start thinking about whether they want to more directly target Gaddafi and his family.”

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned the two-month-old conflict was “moving towards a stalemate,” the BBC reported.

Kuwait pledged $177.2 million in aid to Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council, after talks with rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil on Sunday.

Meanwhile, an International Organization for Migration ship carrying hundreds of evacuees from Misurata reached the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti)

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