Terrified Bangladeshi families flee Sirte’s hell

Filed on October 18, 2011

SIRTE, Libya Desperate to escape rocket and machinegun fire in war-wracked Sirte, two terrified Bangladeshi families managed to emerge from front lines, but their relief was short lived.

Their pick-up truck broke down under sniper fire.

“Allahu Akhbar (God is Greatest), Allahu Akhbar,” shouted the passengers as they held hands before they fled through the pot holed streets of the city, bullets hissed over their heads.

“Too much fighting, no water, no food, no sleep,” sputtered Mohammad Nur, his mouth dry, as he crouched near a pile of blankets and bags.

His wife held an infant in her arms next to another woman with her two children.

After the mad rush of a few minutes, the roar of fierce fighting between National Transitional Council fighters and Moamer Kadhafi loyalists started to ease.

Nur, who has been in Libya for 13 years as a construction worker, looked haggard and took gulps of air.

The two families have been living in Sirte’s Number 2 area, at the heart of the last remaining pocket of Kadhafi loyalists.

“We were surrounded by fire, and soldiers, pro- and anti-Kadhafi,” he said.

NTC “fighters came to our rescue. They screamed Allahu Akhbar, so we knew it was them and we came out of the house.”

Nur said it is difficult to know if there are still a lot of civilians in central Sirte. He only knows that another Bangladeshi family lived a few blocks from his home.

On the edge of the city, a field hospital receives wounded fighters. The sight of an infant, a boy and girl put a smile of nurses’ faces.

Fifteen minutes later, relief comes: The other Bangladeshi family joined Nur’s.

“Kadhafi soldiers told us not to get out of our house,” said exhausted Taha Saha.

“There was no electricity. Four days ago, we started to experience a shortage of water.”

Saha said his family could hear missiles, bullets “flying above our heads. We were afraid; we couldn’t sleep.”

“My father fell down on the way. He started crying.”

At the hospital, medics did not know what do with the Bangladeshi families.

“I don’t know where they will be sent but they will be taken good care of. They will get food, everything they need,” said Ahmed Mustapha.

The Mediterranean city of Sirte is the last stronghold of Kadhafi loyalists after the desert oasis of Bani Walid was overrun by NTC fighters on Monday.

NTC fighters have captured most of Sirte, but the city is yet to fall as two neighbourhoods --- Dollar and Number 2 — are still under the control of Kadhafi loyalists.

The entire city, except the two neighbourhoods, is deserted and almost every building and house has been hit by bullets, rockets or artillery shells.

Families of former Libyan regime officials streamed out of the city on Monday, including the mother and brother of Kadhafi’s spokesman Mussa Ibrahim

But not all civilians found Monday in Sirte’s Number 2 will receive the same treatment Nur and Saha got.

Two young Chadians have been arrested in a farm house behind the front line. They did not have weapons, but they were suspect, as they carried cash, gold, jewellery and mobile phones, possibly stolen.

“They were in a farm behind the front line, inside the battlefield. They did not have guns on them. They were bringing food to the Kadhafi soldiers,” said Captain Ahmed Sussi.

“We will continue our investigation. Maybe they were forced to do it, maybe not.”

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