Libya rebels 'take border post'

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The Independent Online

A Libyan rebel leader claims that opposition forces have taken control of a post on the Tunisian border near a former rebel-held town.

The reported capture of the Dhuheiba border crossing could open important channels to the nearby desert town of Nalut, about 140 miles south-west of the capital Tripoli.

The town was in the hands of anti-government forces last month before Libyan troops moved in.

The rebel leader, Shaban Abu Sitta, said the border post was taken after three days of intense battles with government soldiers outside Nalut.

The claim could not be independently verified.

Muammar Gaddafi's forces have sharply restricted the movement of journalists in the areas they control in western Libya.

Meanwhile, on the Ionian Spirit ferry - part of a maritime lifeline to Misrata - Libyan civilians and migrant workers packed the decks, hallways and all other available space.

The injured were brought to the lower level of the ship, where an 11-member medical team set up a makeshift intensive care unit.

Jeremy Haslam, a co-ordinator from the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration, said the boat has more than 1,000 evacuees including 239 Libyan civilians and 586 migrants from Niger and others from Africa and Asia.

He said some Libyans tried to flee Misrata aboard a tug boat, but were turned away because the vessel was overcrowded. Some managed to get on board the ferry.

"We are carrying more than we are supposed to but it's better than letting these people leave on a tugboat," said Mr Haslam.

The number of people seeking to flee Misrata has surged as Libyan forces expand their shelling to areas once considered relatively safe havens from attacks.

"Our neighborhood became a war zone so we had to get out," said Faiza Stayta, who made it aboard the ferry with her husband and two children. "All the firing is random. You hear a rocket and how have no idea if it will come down on your house."

The vessel carried the bodies of Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, and British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the 2010 Afghanistan war documentary Restrepo that was nominated for an Academy Award. The film was co-directed by Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm.

They were killed yesterday in an attack that also injured two other photographers.

A statement from Mr Hetherington's family said he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The ship also held the body of a Ukrainian doctor killed yesterday in an artillery blast, said Mr Haslam.

The IOM is planning to send another ship to Misrata carrying 500 tonnes of food and medical supplies. It said it has evacuated more than 3,100 people from Misrata.