Gaddafi’s government officials have been taking foreign journalists on various tours in past weeks to reinforce their position that they are in control of the situation in the country.
But a government-controlled trip to Misurata today instead suggested that the situation of Gaddafi’s troops had grown more dire after weeks of laying siege to the enemy’s stronghold, says the Associated Press news agency.
Reporters were taken to the same road junction, more than a mile from the centre of town, where government officials took them about 10 days ago. Back then, it was to show the effects of a NATO airstrike. This time, it
was simply as far as the tour could go before the sounds of gunfire and shelling forced officials to turn around.
At one point, the journalists took cover amid gunfire. A Libyan soldier, Walid Mohammed Walid, received a head wound in the shooting and was taken to a hospital.
And while Gadhafi’s forces at the intersection were seen on open ground on the earlier visit, this time the few soldiers there were hiding out in buildings or on rooftops.
The scene along the road from Tripoli, dotted with burned-out tanks, anti-aircraft guns hidden by vegetation and checkpoints made of tires and sand banks, underscored the devastating struggle over Misrata. It is the most sustained conflict in the Libyan uprising and the focus of a growing international efforts to bring aid by sea to besieged residents caught in the crossfire.
Just 160km southeast of capital Tripoli, Misurata is symbolic and strategic asset for both sides, each of which holds key parts of Libya’s third-largest city.