Humanitarian fears grow over Libya Sirte battle

Concerns focus on the Ibn Sina hospital where Gaddafi's son Mutassim is said to be hiding with group of mercenaries.

By REUTERS
October 4, 2011 07:14
2 minute read.
Libyan rebels celebrate.

Libyan rebels 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori)

 
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SIRTE, Libya - Libyan interim government forces have captured a district in Sirte after fierce battles that further raised concern about the dire humanitarian situation in Muammar Gaddafi's besieged hometown.

Government forces who had for weeks been pinned down by artillery and rocket fire on the eastern edges of Sirte were able to advance several km (miles) into the city, capturing the southern district of Bouhadi.

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A Red Cross convoy delivered oxygen and other urgently needed medical supplies to the Ibn Sina hospital on Monday after an earlier attempt was aborted because of heavy fighting.

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"The situation on the ground was very tense with ongoing fighting," Red Cross delegate Hichem Khadraoui said.

"Under such conditions, we had to limit ourselves - after obtaining clearances from all the parties concerned - to bringing in the most urgently needed humanitarian aid."

Aid agencies say they are concerned about the welfare of civilians inside Sirte, one of the last pro-Gaddafi bastions left in the country, who are trapped by the fighting and running out of food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

Concerns about the humanitarian crisis have focused on the Ibn Sina hospital. Medical workers who fled Sirte say patients were dying on the operating table because there was no oxygen and no fuel for the hospital's generators.

Medical staff outside Sirte who had treated wounded civilians fleeing the fighting said they had been told the corridors were full of patients and that treatment was being given only to pro-Gaddafi fighters or members of his tribe.

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A military spokesman for the interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), told a television channel that Gaddafi's son Mutassim was hiding in the Ibn Sina hospital.

"Our revolutionaries (in Sirte) are fighting those who are accomplices of the tyrant in crimes against the Libyan people," Ahmed Bani told Doha-based Libya TV.

"They are a group of killers and mercenaries led by Mutassim Gaddafi who is now in the Ibn Sina hospital in Sirte to avoid being hit, according to newly received information."

NTC forces in the east of Sirte unleashed barrages of tank, artillery and anti-aircraft fire until after sundown. NATO aircraft flew overhead.

NTC Commanders said their fighters in Sirte were waging street battles with Gaddafi supporters in a residential area situated two km (1.2 miles) from the city centre.

Medical workers at a field hospital near Sirte said four NTC fighters were killed and 39 others were wounded on Monday.

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