27 Aug 2011

Libyan crisis may require international police force

9:58 pm on 27 August 2011

The continuing war and bloodshed in Libya has given rise to an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis, with international aid agencies struggling to cope.

The Red Cross and others have been overwhelmed with demands for food, hospital supplies and other aid for hundreds of thousands of ordinary Libyans affected by the conflict.

With near-anarchy in much of the country without police or other authorities, the United Nations says an international police force may be needed to restore law and order.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Libya is awash with small arms. He also says problems with Tripoli's water supply are putting the lives of millions are at risk.

Horror stories are emerging of hospital patients dying untreated because of a lack of doctors or medicines, while morgues are also struggling to cope with the heavy death toll.

Five days after rebels entered Tripoli, evidence also appears to be emerging of possible war crimes by both sides in the conflict.

The UN has called on all sides in the conflict to take steps to ensure there are no acts of violence and revenge.

Gaddafi's home town in rebels' sights

Meanwhile, British warplanes have bombed a bunker in Sirte, the home town of the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, as rebel fighters prepare an assault on the town.

One of the last major strongholds of Gaddafi's forces, Sirte is shaping up as a key battleground in the days ahead.

Many rebel fighters believe it is where Gaddafi has been hiding since his family compound in Tripoli was captured and overrun last week.

The UN has warned against killing him, saying assassinations are not within the rule of law.

The rebels - who have said the war will only end when Gaddafi is caught or killed - say they are closing in on him and will merge their disparate fighters in the capital under one command to streamline operations.

Convoy reported crossing frontier

Eearlier, Egypt's MENA news agency reported that a convoy of six Mercedes cars had crossed from Libya into Algeria.

The agency says it is not immediately clear who was in the convoy, but it quotes a source as speculating that senior officials of the former Libyan regime, or even Gaddafi himself and his sons, have fled the country.

The source from the rebel military council in Ghadamis, on the Algerian border, is quoted as saying that the convoy of armoured cars crossed the frontier on Friday morning local time protected by the commander of a nomadic military unit that had apparently operated under Gaddafi.

The source said the rebels were unable to chase and stop the convoy.

Algerian officials were not immediately reachable for comment and it has so far been impossible to verify the report.

Gaddafi has not been seen in public since his Bab al-Aziziya bastion in Tripoli fell to the rebels earlier this week.