The Libyan port city of Misrata is still under siege. Marie Colvin, a correspondent for the Sunday Times of London, tells anchor Lisa Mullins about the chaos at the port where panicked residents have attempted to board rescue ships amid heavy shelling. Download MP3
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LISA MULLINS: I’m Lisa Mullins and this is The World. The United States is looking for a way to help Libya’s rebels financially and today secretary of state Hillary Clinton said Washington might tap frozen Libyan assets to do so. Secretary Clinton was in Rome today for a special meeting on funding for the Libyan rebels. Meanwhile, in Libya, the standoff in the rebel-held Port of Misrata continues. Thousands of people there are desperately waiting for a way out of the city, which is under siege from government forces. Journalist Marie Colvin is there for the Sunday Times of London.
MARIE COLVIN: I just came from the main hospital in Misrata. Several people, badly wounded, died and they were brought out and there was a lot of shouting of “God is great,” which is what they do when someone does die here. Yesterday, it was heartrending, an aide ship came in chartered by the International Organization for Migrants. They’ve been getting out refugees who are stuck at the port. They’re mostly foreign, migrant workers. About a thousand of them were left and this ship had been sitting off Misrata for three or four days because Gadhafi’s people had mined the port, which is the only way out or was the only way out of Misrata. An aid ship came and, just as it was docking, Gadhafi’s people started shelling the port and complete chaos. When I say it was heartbreaking, one of the shells killed a family from Niger — the father, the mother, little boy looked about three, four years old, and the younger girl, probably about a year and a half — who’d been waiting two months and they were just there, getting out of danger, killed by a shell. Chaos, panic broke out obviously, people ran aboard, some gunfire broke out. Not all of the evacuees could get on — In nor could the badly injured Libyans — could not get aboard because the captain simply pulled up the ramp and left.
MULLINS: You obviously have seen a great deal there but we know there’s been something of an exodus of the foreign press from Misrata. Have they been pushed out or are they leaving because it is just too dangerous now?
COLVIN: A lot of my colleagues left on that ship yesterday. It is very dangerous, I mean, it has to be said and I think part of that danger is also the expectation of shelling. I mean, it’s very random. Gadhafi, his forces having been pushed out of the center of Misrata, are now besieging the city from three sides. And they’re simply sitting back there and lobbing in ground rockets, which are longer range, very high explosive, they will take out a building. And as you drive around Misrata, it’s also that you don’t know where to expect them. There is nowhere to be safe and I think a lot of my colleagues felt the same thing. One of them had a very, very narrow miss just driving through a checkpoint. I think some of them will be back. I felt I wanted to stay because the people of Misrata deserve a voice. We need to report -I don’t want to sound grand or anything- but report to the world what was going on here. That was very important to me.
MULLINS: Is there any way that either, what rebel forces there are there in Misrata or NATO could have helped prevent this shelling by Gadhafi forces? I mean, we know that the government of Libya is saying basically that any ship in the harbor is going to be a target. Is there any way that that can be avoided?
COLVIN: Everyone in Misrata is asking the same question. It’s very unclear why NATO is not taking out what is being used to kill and wound civilians here in Misrata. They do seem to be hitting command and control centers. Maybe they’re starting at the top down, but I know the people in Misrata would much prefer they took out those tanks and ground launchers so that they would sleep safely at night.
MULLINS: Marie, thank you very much for speaking with us from the besieged port city of Misrata in Libya. Marie Colvin, correspondent for the Sunday Times of London. Thanks.
COLVIN: Good to talk to you.
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