Libya: Sirte battle flushes out pro-Gaddafi fighters

Peter Beaumont reports: The stories of some of those inside Ibn Sana hospital in Sirte do not add up. Hamad Ashrak Ali from Sudan is lying on a bed in the hospital’s basement. He shows us his wound before explaining the circumstances of it. He has been shot through the side. The bullet exited through one buttock – the wound is becoming septic.

He says he came from Abyei in his own country to Sirte to earn money: “I thought I could earn money here by loading trucks.”

He does not explain why he chose Gaddafi’s hometown in particular and claims at first to have been in the hospital with his wound for 50 days.

But his wound is relatively recent, the muscles still pronounced. He has not spent almost two months in a hospital bed.

“Kids were doing handbrake turns,” – doughnuts, he calls them. “Someone fired a gun and I was shot.” He is asked again how long he has been in hospital. He changes his story. “Since April,” he says.

A bearded fighter from the forces of the NTC suggests quietly that Hamad is lying. Other fighters say they have a list and know who are the mercenaries and pro-Gaddafi fighters in the hospital.

Not far away an emaciated man struggles up from his bed, stick thin.

Other patients in this dreadful place seem comatose, afflicted with wounds long gone rotten, people in desperate need of evacuation.

But for now there is nowhere for them to go.

Not even the Red Cross has been able to evacuate the bombed out hospital. The nearby field hospitals are full, as is the hospital in Misrata. So they are stuck in this shattered shell.

Outside on the street, a three-car convoy drives by towards the Ouagadougou conference centre.

Skinny men with dark-skinned, emaciated faces are packed into two cars, with more sitting slumped in open boots.

Recent deserters from the pro-Gaddafi forces, who have been fighting to defend this city for a fallen and defeated regime, they are guarded by NTC fighters in the final car.

As the new government force push forward from the east and west towards the sea, life in Gaddafi’s home town and in his second capital is revealed.

The pro-Gaddafi forces – for so long invisible in their positions, where they have poured down fire on the advancing fighters – have been revealed for what they are. Ordinary men, frightened, who now want only to survive by surrendering, hiding in the hospital or trying to escape with fleeing civilians.

Time reports: An official on Libya’s governing council said Monday that he believes Muammar Gaddafi is hiding in the southwestern desert near the borders with Niger and Algeria, but denied allegations that the Tuareg minority ethnic group is protecting the fugitive leader.

Moussa al-Kouni, who is a Tuareg representative on the revolution’s leadership body, claimed Gadhafi had sent his son Khamis to the area to set up a radio station and make preparations for a possible escape route two months before Tripoli fell to revolutionary forces in late August.

Al-Kouni provided no evidence, saying he based his assertion on the fact that the Gadhafi regime had used the area before because it has rough terrain and porous borders that would make detection difficult. He also pointed out that Gadhafi had cultivated close ties with the Niger government and could even be going back and forth across the border.

“As far as I am aware, Gadhafi is in that region … on the border with Niger,” he told reporters in Tripoli, adding that Gadhafi could get safe passage through Niger to Mali, where he allegedly has a house in Timbuktu. Niger has put Gadhafi’s son al-Saadi under house arrest.

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