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Gaddafi forces attack rebel city

Troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have unleashed heavy shelling on Misrata, pushing troops and tanks into the rebel-held western city, a witness said.

The renewed attack came as Nato officials struggled to overcome differences over its mission to dislodge the defiant Libyan leader.

Elsewhere in Libya, Nato warplanes struck Gaddafi's home town of Sirte in the east, Libyan TV said.

In the capital of Tripoli, there were reports of heightened security measures in an apparent attempt to prevent anti-government protests.

A helicopter circled over Misrata for several hours, apparently spotting targets for artillery in Libya's third-largest city, in defiance of the Nato-enforced no-fly zone. Forces bombarded the city with fire from tanks, artillery and rockets.

Eight bodies of civilians were taken to a hospital but there are many causalities among the fighters who took guns and arms to defend their city, said the resident, who spoke on condition he be identified only by his first name, Abdel-Salam, for fear of retaliation.

The assault by Gaddafi forces was the heaviest in the 50-day-old siege of Misrata - the only major remaining rebel stronghold in western Libya.

His troops have continued to attack rebel positions as part of a deadlocked civil war sparked two months ago by anti-government protests. The international community stepped into the conflict a month ago, with Nato unleashing air strikes on Gaddafi-linked military targets.

The latest attacks followed new shows of defiance by Gaddafi on Thursday and by his daughter, Aisha, who rallied a crowd early from a balcony at her father's compound that was hit by US warplanes 25 years ago.

Libyan TV said air strikes targeted Sirte, although it did not provide details. Explosions were also heard from what appeared to be Nato strikes against Gaddafi's forces near the coastal town of Brega.

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