Rescued Libyans describe attacks in besieged city

By Ben Hubbard

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, April 3 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

An injured Libyan man who lost one of his legs is seen on board the Turkish ship Ankara, carrying 250 wounded from Misrata that docked at the port of Benghazi, Libya Sunday, April 3, 2011. Libyan rebels want to install a parliamentary democracy in place of longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, one of their top leaders said Sunday, dismissing Western fears that their movement could be hijacked by Islamic extremists.

Nasser Nasser, Associated Press

BENGHAZI, Libya — From makeshift beds inside a cruise-ship-turned-hospital, wounded residents of a besieged Libyan city told Sunday of daily shelling, looting and sniping by Moammar Gadhafi's forces and called for the end of the Libyan ruler's 42-year reign.

The ship, carrying hundreds from Misrata to Turkey for care, made a brief stop in Benghazi, where rebel youth gathered on the dock to welcome them and seek news from an embattled city that has been largely cut off from the world for weeks.

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.

Mohammed Abu Libous, 37, said he and seven relatives were working in a bakery on the outskirts of Misrata, rebel forces' last major stronghold in western Libya, when about 20 Gadhafi troops entered in three tanks and started harassing local residents.

They entered his shop and told him and his brother to surrender their weapons. When they said they had none, the troops took them out in the street. They shot his brother through the stomach and him once in each thigh, he said.

"While I was on the ground bleeding, they bound the others and took them away," he said, adding that the troops stole all their money, cell phones and rings.

While the eastern half of Libya fell quickly under rebel control, Misrata, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of the capital Tripoli, was one of two western cities that rose up early in the revolt against Gadhafi. His elite forces besieged Misrata for weeks, cutting off food and water supplies and power lines, but the rebels have stood their ground.

The regime has retaken the other city, Zawiya.

Ali Davutoglu, 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 Turkish port of Cesme, where hospitals were preparing to welcome them.

The Turkish government funded the trip, and the Turkish Red Crescent and Islamic aid group IHH provided staff and supplies, he 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.

A few hundred young men gathered on the dock, cheering, chanting and raising their arms and rifles as two tugboats guided the Ankara to port.

Passengers — some with limbs in casts and bandages — appeared on the top deck, waving to the crowd below, which chanted, "The martyrs' blood is not spilled in vain!"

Inside, doctors and nurses tended to the wounded in what was once a cruise ship. In one room, a bar had been converted into a pharmacy, with bandages and medicines where bottles and glasses once were. A nurse in a sanitary mask manned the reception desk.

Nearby, a dozen men in their 20s lounged on couches that likely once held tourists. Most had at least one limb in a cast, and all said they had been wounded defending their city.

"It was my first time holding a gun," said Ibrahim Khelif, 25, whose left leg had been shattered by a hand grenade. "Anyone who could get one and figure out how to work it would go out in the street and fight."

On a bed in a sleeper cabin, a Turkish doctor was changing the bandages on the stump where Mohammed Bashir's left leg once was.

Bashir, a 41-year-old prosecutor, said Gadhafi's forces shelled the city from three sides with tank rounds and mortars. Then snipers in civilian clothing deployed on rooftops in the downtown area where he lives with his wife and three children.

"They shoot at anyone who goes out, even those with children," he said.

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