TRIPOLI, Libya — An aid ship dodged Libyan government rockets and shells as it evacuated hundreds of migrant workers and wounded civilians from the besieged port city of Misrata on Wednesday, but it was forced to leave behind hundreds of others who were desperate to leave.
The Red Star One, operated by the International Organization for Migration, finally docked to deliver humanitarian assistance and evacuate civilians, after waiting since Saturday because of shelling and mines that were laid in the harbor by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Even as it docked, more shells landed just short of the port, killing five foreigners, including two young African children, waiting to be evacuated from a relief camp, witnesses said. Two Libyan civilians also died in shelling in Misrata on Wednesday.
"It was absolutely chaotic," said rebel spokesman Mohamed Ali, who was at the port when the boat docked. "It's so distressing seeing young children killed in this murderous way."
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The dead included a 3-year-old boy, a girl about 2 and their father. The children's mother was also wounded.
"We were just sitting there when the bombs came down," Saka Yossie, a Ghanaian, told the Associated Press. "They died right in front of us."
Yossie said he'd spent six weeks in the camp, sleeping in a tent with little food and water. "Now I thank God for taking me from this place," he said as he stepped onboard the ferry.
The Gadhafi regime has threatened to attack any ships using Misrata's port because the rebels also use the Mediterranean Sea to bring in arms, ammunition and fighters.
The government says aid can be delivered over land but has not offered any pause in the shelling of Misrata to allow that to happen. Vegetables in the city ran out weeks ago and supplies of other foods and medicines are running low.
In the scramble to leave, the Red Star One, which had hoped to evacuate 1,000 African and Asian migrant workers, took away between 700 and 800.