3 Libyan security officials defect to Tunisia

A rebel's cannon fires artillery shells at forces loyal to Libya's strongman Muammar Qaddafi, in the eastern town of Ajdabiya, April 17, 2011. Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images

TRIPOLI, Libya — Tunisia's official news agency says that three Libyan security officials in Muammar Qaddafi's regime have defected, arriving at a Tunisian port in a boat with some 20 other Libyans.

TAP said on Monday that a colonel, a captain and another officer in the internal security forces turned up at El Ketf port in the Ben Guerdane region Sunday.

The defections follow those of five Libyan army officers who fled to Tunisia on Friday with 13 of their countrymen.

Tunisia has been taking in refugees from the fighting in Libya between rebels and government-backed troops. TAP said that in the last two days alone some 3,000 Libyans, mostly women and children, have fled to Tunisia.

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Meanwhile, Britain said Monday it would provide about 2 million pounds (US$3.3 million) to fund efforts to evacuate about 5,000 foreign workers stranded and under fire in the besieged western Libyan city of Misrata.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, who was holding meetings in New York on Monday with United Nations officials, also pledged to pay for emergency medical aid for civilians in western Libya.

Mitchell said British aid money would assist the work of the International Organization for Migration, which has already begun ferrying foreign nationals out of Misrata by boat to the opposition-held eastern city of Benghazi.

About 870 foreign migrant workers and 100 Libyans were aboard the organization's chartered boat Ionian Spirit which left Misrata early Monday.

Among the foreigners were 650 Ghanaians, and a smaller number of Filipino and Ukrainian laborers. Several women and children, and 23 people suffering war wounds - including a child who had been shot in the face and an amputee were also aboard, the organization said.

"Thousands of foreign workers have managed to reach the port but find themselves at terrible risk from incoming fire, with no way to get out," Mitchell said in a statement. "These evacuations will take them to safety and help reduce the demand in Misrata for the very limited supplies of food, water and medical supplies available."

Mitchell said that the International Medical Corps would send a five-person medical team to provide surgical and trauma skills, and that Britain will offer supplies of antibiotics, analgesics, bandages, first aid kits and surgical equipment.

The corp's vice president for international operations Rabih Torbay said the support had been "provided at a critical time and will enable lifesaving emergency medical care and supplies to be delivered to the most vulnerable populations in Libya."

Torbay said the medical team hope to provide lifesaving care to about 30 wounded people per day.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it also evacuated 618 foreign nationals by sea from Misrata on Monday and will take them to Egypt, via the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk.

ICRC delegate Javier Cepero Garcia described the evacuation as "challenging" because of fighting close to the port.

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