Cut off from Misrata, wounded evacuees dream of return

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2011 4:13 PM
Cut off from Misrata, wounded evacuees dream of return

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

SFAX, Tunisia (Reuters) - No one knows better than Abdelsalam how dangerous it is right now in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Yet all he wants is to get back.

Two weeks ago, he was in a group of four people trying to run to a safer spot when snipers opened fire on them.

"The three others were killed. I was shot in the leg, the bullet went through it. I fainted and was then taken to hospital," he said.

One of a lucky few to be evacuated by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers, he is recuperating from his wounds in the port city of Sfax in neighbouring Tunisia.

Like others who escaped from the last major rebel stronghold in western Libya, which has been cut off from the world for six weeks by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the 20-year-old says he is desperate to return to family left behind.

Mustafa, another evacuee whose wounded brother remains in a Tunisian hospital, said the only news they get about Misrata is from shocking footage on television.

"I look at the streets they show and I ask myself 'Is that really what Misrata has become?'. We just can't sit here and do nothing," the 30-year-old said. "I have brothers, sisters in Misrata. I don't know anything about their situation and they don't know anything about me and my brother."

The men, all of whom asked that their surnames not be published to protect relatives back in Misrata, described themselves as civilians, although their accounts of how they came to be wounded could not be verified.

Libyan authorities deny their troops fire on civilians and say they are fighting al Qaeda-linked gangs.

An MSF aid ship two weeks ago carried 71 wounded people from Misrata. The charity evacuated a further 99 people from Misrata on Friday, of which 64 were wounded.

Misrata residents say they face shortages of food and medical supplies and have only sporadic water and electricity. The United Nations says thousands of foreign migrant workers are stranded in the city, sleeping rough in perilous conditions.

Hishan, 31, was hit by shrapnel at the medical clinic where he was working as a guard.

"I can't go back just yet because I need my leg to heal properly. But I will," he said.

(Editing by Peter Graff)