Brussels (ANTARA News/AFP) - NATO warships thwarted Monday a bid by Moamer Kadhafi`s forces to use small boats loaded with improvised explosive devices to threaten aid ships heading to the port city of Misrata, the alliance said.

It was the third time in nearly three weeks that NATO encountered Kadhafi forces off the coast, after catching them laying sea mines in Misrata`s harbour on April 29 and beating back a boat attack on the port last week, NATO said.

On Monday morning, NATO dispatched warships and helicopters after detecting two rigid-hull inflatable boats that appeared to have come from around Zliten and were headed towards Misrata on the western coast.

As alliance forces approached, one of the small boats escaped at high speed to the west back towards Zliten, abandoning the second vessel.

A bomb disposal team discovered around one tonne of explosives and two human mannequins inside the abandoned boat. The explosives were destroyed by an allied warship using small arms fire.

"This is the first evidence of an attempt to use an improvised explosive device with decoy human mannequins to threaten commercial shipping and humanitarian aid in the area of Misrata," NATO said in a statement.

The three sea incidents involving Kadhafi forces signal "a change in their operations that signifies their continued intent to bring harm to civilians or to attack NATO vessels," the alliance said.

Misrata is the most significant city held by the rebels in western Libya. The opposition forces freed Libya`s third largest city in fierce fighting earlier in the week from a two-month siege by Kadhafi`s forces.

A total of 21 NATO ships are actively patrolling the Mediterranean as part of an arms embargo against Libya.

The 28-nation alliance has also led since March 31 air strikes against the Kadhafi regime`s ground forces under a United Nations mandate to defend the population.


Editor: Priyambodo RH
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