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Turkish ship rescues wounded Libyans from Misrata ‘hell’
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 05 Apr 2011 Tue 12:37 pm

Turkish ship rescues wounded Libyans from Misrata ‘hell’

05 April 2011, Tuesday / TODAY´S ZAMAN WITH WIRES, İSTANBUL

Libyans wave a Turkish flag in front of the ship, Ankara, carrying hundreds of wounded people from Misrata, upon its arrival at a port in Benghazi on Sunday

A Turkish ship headed to Turkey after it rescued hundreds of wounded Libyans and their families from the besieged Libyan city of Misrata on Sunday and rebel stronghold Benghazi early Monday, but the ship left behind thousands of people pleading to be evacuated in Misrata, underlining the plight of civilians.
 

"It´s a very hard situation. We had to leave early," Ali Akın, head of consular affairs with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said of the evacuation in Misrata. He said the ship had to make a hasty departure with the wounded and hundreds of their relatives after a large crowd pressed forward on the dockside hoping for a way out of Libya, including 4,000 Egyptians. Wounded refugees said a massacre was taking place there, with one describing the situation as "hell."

The hospital committee in Misrata had told Turkish authorities that 120 people needed to leave on the ship but far more were eventually put on board, he said. “There is no room in the hospital so they treated some and sent them back to their homes,” said Akın. “This meant it was not easy to collect them.”

The ship, a car ferry called Ankara, then docked in the eastern Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi late on Sunday to pick up nearly 70 wounded Libyans and more than 30 Turkish and European nationals stranded in the city before heading to a port in the western Turkish province of İzmir on the Aegean coast. In Benghazi, rebel youth gathered on the dock to welcome those rescued from Misrata and seek news from an embattled city that has been largely cut off from the world for weeks.

As the ship, chartered by the Turkish government and turned into a floating hospital, arrived in Benghazi and blew its foghorn, several hundred rebel supporters waiting at the docks burst into chants, crying: “The blood of martyrs is spilled for freedom” and “Muammar Gaddafi: Misrata has real men”.

Ali Davutoğlu, the Turkish consul general in Benghazi, said the ship Ankara had brought 230 passengers from Misrata and was picking up another 100 from Benghazi before sailing to the port of Çeşme, where hospitals were preparing to welcome them.

The Turkish government funded the trip, and the Turkish Red Crescent and Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) provided staff and supplies, the consul general said. Twelve Turkish jets and a frigate provided protection as the ferry docked at Misrata on Saturday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ship is expected to arrive in Çeşme on Tuesday night.

Before the ship docked, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu contacted the Libyan government and opposition for the declaration of a temporary cease-fire in Misrata; subsequently, a ferry with ambulances and medical equipment on board were eventually able to enter the port and take wounded Libyans after it spent four days waiting in vain for permission to dock.

Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city, rose up with other towns against Gaddafi’s rule in mid-February, but it is now surrounded by government troops after a violent crackdown put an end to most protests elsewhere in the west of the country.

Guarded by heavily armed Turkish police special forces, wounded men of all ages lay on mattresses on one of the car decks of the ship. A 15-member medical team took care of the wounded Libyans during the voyage.

After weeks of shelling and encirclement, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces appear to be gradually loosening the rebels’ hold on Misrata. Rebels say they still control the city center and the port, but government troops are pressing in.

Inside the ship, doctors and nurses tended to the wounded. In one room, a bar had been converted into a pharmacy, with bandages and medicines where bottles and glasses were once kept. A nurse in a sanitary mask manned the reception desk. Nearby, a dozen men in their 20s lounged on couches that once likely held tourists. Most had at least one limb in a cast, and all said they had been wounded defending their city.

In İzmir, the city’s chamber of doctors said in a written statement on Monday that a field hospital was established by the government noted that Çeşme, Seferihisar and Urla state hospitals are prepared to welcome the wounded Libyans.

Wounded Libyans say condition in Misrata terrible

Dozens of men, many nursing gunshot wounds and missing limbs, lay on thin mats in the ship’s hull, speaking of brutal government attacks and young rebels struggling to fend them off.

Swathed in bandages, evacuees on board gave one of the most detailed accounts yet of conditions in Misrata. “It is very, very bad. In my street, Gaddafi bombed us,” said Ibrahim al-Aradi, 26, who had wounds in his groin. “We have no water, no electricity. We don’t have medicine. There are snipers everywhere,” he told Reuters.

Others in the ship spoke of Gaddafi’s forces bombing mosques and houses. “When Gaddafi’s men hear the NATO planes they hide in houses and mosques. When the planes are gone they destroy them,” said Mustafa Suleiman, a 30-year-old computer engineer.

“Even the big supermarket was destroyed. Some of my friends were killed. We have no vegetables, no fruits, only bread. Gaddafi wants to kill Misrata by fighting and starvation,” Suleiman said.

They had wounds in all parts of their bodies, and were being attended by Turkish doctors. Hamen, a Libyan doctor who was accompanying the men, said: “Misrata is terrible. I have seen terrible things. Thirty people killed in one day. These are my patients. I must stay with them but I want to go back.”

Separately, another aid ship operated by the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières docked in the Tunisian port of Sfax carrying 71 wounded people from Misrata, many with bullet wounds and broken limbs and one whose face was completely disfigured by burns.

“I could live or die, but I am thinking of my family and friends who are stranded in the hell of Misrata,” said a tearful Abdullah Lacheeb, who had serious injuries to his pelvis and stomach and a bullet wound in his leg. “Imagine, they use tanks against civilians. He (Gaddafi) is prepared to kill everyone there ... I am thinking of my family.”

 

 

 

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