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Aid ship caught in Libyan barrage

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Hundreds of migrants line up for the Red Star One ship to flee fighting in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata (AP)

Hundreds of migrants line up for the Red Star One ship to flee fighting in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata (AP)

Hundreds of migrants line up for the Red Star One ship to flee fighting in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata (AP)

A British-sponsored aid ship has been caught in Misrata harbour during an attack by Muammar Gaddafi's forces that killed four people, including two children.

The Red Star One ferry had been sent to deliver essential humanitarian supplies and evacuate around 1,000 fleeing migrant workers. It spent three nights outside Misrata waiting to enter.

Last week, Gaddafi's forces were caught mining the harbour entrance, and the ferry was guided into the port by tug boat to avoid mines.

The man, woman and children killed in the rocket attack had been in a nearby camp for stranded migrant workers, most of them African, said the Libyan Red Crescent.

The port area came under rocket fire as soon as the ferry had docked.

Shortly after the attack a few migrant families arrived at the ship in the back of a pick-up truck with their belongings. Then dump trucks arrived, their backs packed with hundreds of men, mostly from Niger and other impoverished African countries. They poured out of the trucks and raced to board the ship, many of them carrying no luggage.

As they filed on board, 300 Libyans, mostly families with children, crowded around the ship's back, hoping to flee the city.

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Trip organisers tried to keep them from boarding, but about 100 rushed the boat, hauling their luggage aboard and ignoring calls to stop.

A rebel helping organise the evacuation fired one shot in the air to disperse the crowd and the boat suddenly pulled out to sea, separating some families and leaving medics and journalists behind.

Its chaotic departure highlighted the desperation of some in the once-wealthy city, Libya's third largest, after two months of war and daily shelling by forces loyal to Gaddafi.


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