Gadhafi Forces Caught Mining Misrata Port

By Staff | April 29, 2011 | 11:18 AM EDT

Brussels (AP) - NATO warships have intercepted several boats laying anti-shipping mines outside the harbor of the Libyan city of Misrata, a senior military officer said Friday.

Misrata has been under siege by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi for several weeks, and though rebels have managed to expel regime forces from the city itself, the enclave is isolated and remains dependent for much of its food and other supplies on the sea link with the rebel capital of Benghazi. It appeared to be the first time sea mines have been used in the Libyan conflict.

"We have just seen Gadhafi forces floating anti-ship mines outside Misrata harbor today," said British Brig. Rob Weighill, director of NATO operations in Libya.

"It again shows his complete disregard for international law and his willingness to attack humanitarian delivery efforts," he said speaking via teleconference from the operation's headquarters in Naples.

Weighill said NATO crews were disposing of the mines.

It has been a month since NATO assumed control of the U.S.-led military operation in Libya, with the mandate to protect civilians from attack.

Since then, alliance warplanes have conducted a total of 4,242 sorties and 1,766 strike sorties. In addition, a total of 19 NATO ships are patrolling the central Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, a NATO spokeswoman said rebel chief of staff Abdel-Fatah Younes met Thursday with senior NATO officials in Brussels. Carmen Romero said there had been "an exchange of views on Libya," but declined to elaborate.

Younes, a former Libyan interior minister who defected to the opposition, called on the international community to supply heavy weapons to the rebels.