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French navy denies that an aircraft carrier ignored distress calls from Libyan migrants

Sixty-one people died aboard a boat in the Mediterranean. Survivors claim they were ignored by a French navy ship. Meanwhile, heavy fighting continues in Tripoli, Misrata and Ajdabiya.

A fighter lands after a mission over Libya on France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier
A fighter lands after a mission over Libya on France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier
Image: Christophe Ena/AP/Press Association Images

THE FRENCH NAVY and NATO are denying claims by The Guardian that distress calls from a boat carrying 72 Libyan migrants were ignored. Sixty-one people died aboard the boat, which was adrift for 16 days in the Mediterranean.

A survivor had said that their ship had floated near the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier and that they could not have been missed. However France 24 reports that both NATO and the French navy have dismissed the claims, saying that the aircraft carrier was never in the same area.

The migrants, among them women and children, were attempting to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Fighting in Libya

Meanwhile the Libyan capital Tripoli has undergone its heaviest NATO bombing in weeks, with reports that Muamar Gaddafi’s compound has been hit.

NATO warplanes struck at least four sites in the city, including a building used by a military intelligence agency, and the network of buildings housing members of Gaddafi’s family.

The Tripoli bombing came just hours after heavy fighting was reported yesterday on the rebel-held eastern front south of the town of Ajdabiya. Rebels in the area said they had been told that NATO was going to launch airstrikes on Gaddafi’s forces and that they had been ordered to withdraw temporarily from the front.

The rebels are holding the eastern front, but have become bogged down in the area around Ajdabiya. Their pleas for heavier arms from abroad have fallen on deaf ears, although NATO is carrying out airstrikes on regime forces as many countries intensify their calls for Gaddafi to go.

NATO forces also attacked pockets of government forces in Misrata yesterday, after Gaddafi’s troops shelled a neighbourhood in the north of the city where many families had to fled to from the city centre. A civilian spokesman in Misrata has said that between 10 and 15 people are being killed daily, and the death toll in the city stands at more than 1,000.

The UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has asked all sides for a pause in hostilities to allow aid to be delivered into the country.

- Additional reporting by AP

Read: The French navy denies that Libyan migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean>

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Emer McLysaght

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