- Shortages "killing patients" in Libya siege hospital
- Yemeni warplane mistakenly bombs soldiers, officials say
- Flagging Hurricane Ophelia enroute to Newfoundland
Posted: 02 Oct 2011 09:15 PM PDT
SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - People wounded in fighting in Libya's besieged city of Sirte are dying on the operating table because fuel for the hospital generator has run out, medical workers fleeing the city said on Sunday.
The birthplace of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is one of two towns still holding out against the country's new rulers. The fighting has entered its third week and civilians are caught up in a worsening humanitarian crisis.
The interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), declared a two-day truce to allow civilians to escape, but people emerging from the city said they knew nothing of the ceasefire, and that the shooting had not stopped.
"Doctors start operating, then the power goes. They have a few litres of fuel for the generators, then the lights go out when they operate," said a man who gave his name as Al-Sadiq, who said he ran the dialysis unit at Sirte's main hospital.
"I saw a child of 14 die on the operating table because the power went out during the operation," he told Reuters on the western outskirts of the city.
Aid workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who brought medical supplies into Sirte on Saturday could not reach the hospital because of shooting.
That hospital has now become the focus of concerns about the humanitarian crisis in the city.
"It's a catastrophe. Patients are dying every day for need of oxygen," said Mohammed Shnaq, a biochemist at the hospital who fled early on Sunday during a lull in the shooting.
He said private pharmacies in Sirte had handed over their supplies to the hospital after its own stocks ran out a week ago, but these were now running out too.
The ICRC said that it planned to go back into Sirte and hoped to reach the hospital, security permitting.
"We want to deliver oxygen, which is lacking at the hospital," ICRC spokesman Marcal Izard told Reuters in Geneva.
"But it has to be done carefully, oxygen is very delicate. A stray bullet would be a disaster."
GADDAFI'S SON A TARGET
Colonel Hamed Al-Hasi, commander of the anti-Gaddafi Qatar brigade east of Sirte, said the truce had expired on Sunday, but a full assault was still out of the question.
"There are still more than 15,000 persons inside. We cannot sacrifice them," he said.
He said NTC forces would for now instead be targeting the district of Bouhadi, just to the south of Sirte. He said a captured Gaddafi loyalist had told them that Mo'atassem, one of the deposed Libyan leader's sons and his former national security adviser, was in the district.
"We've been concentrating since last night on Bouhadi," he said. "If we catch Mo'atassem, things will calm down."
NATO warplanes were more in evidence than in previous days, with aircraft flying unusually low over the city. In one 10-minute period there was a steady rumble from bombs dropping on an area south of the city, a Reuters reporter said.
Libyans ended Gaddafi's 42-year rule in August when rebel fighters stormed the capital. Gaddafi and several of his sons are still at large, and his supporters hold Sirte and the town of Bani Walid, south of Tripoli.
Gaddafi's supporters are too weak to regain power, but their resistance is frustrating the new rulers' efforts to start building the post-Gaddafi Libya.
While it needs to stamp out the last resistance swiftly, the NTC does not want to use indiscriminate shelling, which could hurt its standing and make it even harder to govern Libya's fractious tribes and regions.
Gaddafi loyalists and some civilians have blamed NATO air strikes and shelling by anti-Gaddafi forces for the deaths of civilians in Sirte.
Both NATO and the NTC deny that and say it is the Gaddafi loyalists who are endangering civilians by using them as human shields.
Khalid Ahmed, who fled the city early on Sunday, said the residential area where he lives in the centre of Sirte had come under heavy artillery fire on Saturday.
"The reason there is shooting in the city centre is that the pro-Gaddafi militia has positioned artillery in the buildings where civilians live. The children are terrified and they are screaming all the time."
He said he had been able to get out by borrowing money to buy black-market fuel. He said the rate in Sirte now was 600 dinars, or about $450, for 20 litres of fuel.
Doctors at a field hospital east of Sirte said four NTC fighters had been killed on Sunday in "friendly fire" incidents -- testament to the often-chaotic conduct of the anti-Gaddafi forces.
The focus on the battle for the last pro-Gaddafi strongholds -- and on tracking down Gaddafi himself -- has left a power vacuum in Tripoli.
With no process in motion for electing a new leadership, power on the ground is wielded by anti-Gaddafi militias who are jockeying with each other for influence in the new Libya. Some analysts warn that this rivalry could turn violent.
One commander in Tripoli said he was setting up an armed group to keep order in the city, even though that function is already carried out by a body led by Abdulhakim Belhadj, a former militant Islamist.
"Who is he? Who appointed him?" said Abdullah Ahmed Naker, the head of the new group, when asked about Belhadj.
(Additional reporting by William Maclean in Tripoli and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 02 Oct 2011 08:45 PM PDT
SANAA/ADEN (Reuters) - Local security officials said up to 20 soldiers were killed when Yemen's air force mistakenly bombed a military site in the south of the country on Sunday, but government and military sources denied the reports.
"We are not sure of the number yet but some 18 or 20 soldiers were killed, the plane bombed a small military site in Abyan. They meant to target an al Qaeda hideout," a security official told Reuters by telephone from the flashpoint Abyan province.
A defence ministry source denied "the false news that Yemeni soldiers were killed in an accidental Yemeni plane strike".
Yemen's army is fighting to regain territory lost to suspected al Qaeda operatives during months of political upheaval that have weakened central government control over parts of the country, notably Abyan.
A military source in the area said there was some confusion over what happened in several sites of fighting in Abyan on Sunday.
He said there had been several air strikes and al Qaeda attacks, and said the soldiers' deaths were not caused by a botched strike but a militant ambush on an army site.
The government said its troops had pushed Islamist fighters out of Abyan's capital Zinjibar last month, but clashes continue to flare there.
Local officials said nine soldiers were killed when militants ambushed government forces in the east of the city on Sunday. Another 23 were injured.
Separately, but also in Zinjibar, four more soldiers died in combat with gunmen and 15 militants were killed in air strikes on Sunday, local officials and residents said.
Since popular protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh paralysed impoverished Yemen earlier this year, international powers have feared growing lawlessness might embolden al Qaeda's local wing and imperil shipping routes via the Red Sea.
FEAR OF CIVIL WAR
Saleh's opponents accuse him of exaggerating the threat of al Qaeda and even encouraging militancy to scare Saudi Arabia and the United States into backing him.
Diplomats said Western countries are hoping to step up pressure on Saleh to resign with a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution, as frustration grows over fruitless power transition talks.
"The international community has decided we need to up the pressure now," one senior western diplomat in Sanaa said.
"No decision has been taken yet over what type of resolution we might try ... But we do need to move beyond statements now."
Saleh had been in Saudi Arabia since June recovering from an attempt on his life. His surprise comeback coincided with a burst of bloodshed in the capital when a months-old uneasy stalemate gave way to a military showdown between pro- and anti-Saleh forces.
Violence has been sporadic since Saleh's return, but many Yemenis and analysts fear the country may eventually slide into an even deadlier confrontation, if not civil war.
There were clashes again in Sanaa on Sunday, with residents reporting gunfire near the base of top general Ali Mohsen, who defected from Saleh in March and threw his weight behind protests calling for an end to his 33-year rule.
Residents said men were digging trenches in front of the capital's presidential palace, raising concern they were preparing for more fighting.
"They've renewed the trench digging and they're building dirt mounts around the presidential palace," one resident said. "It started last night and even today they're still digging."
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, Erika Solomon and Dhuyazen Mukhashaf; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Sophie Hares)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 02 Oct 2011 08:45 PM PDT
MIAMI (Reuters) - Hurricane Ophelia weakened to a Category 1 storm on Sunday as it raced toward Newfoundland off Canada's Atlantic coast.
Ophelia, which had earlier strengthened to become the third major hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, was still expected to be a powerful storm when it passed near or over the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland on Sunday night or early Monday.
But its top sustained winds dropped to 90 miles (150 km) per hour as it barrled toward Newfoundland late Sunday afternoon, making it a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
That was down from sustained wind speeds near 133 miles (215 km) per hour, when Ophelia swept east of Bermuda on Saturday.
The hurricane whipped up showers, thunderstorms and surf on the British overseas territory but had no major impact.
A tropical storm watch was in place for the Avalon Peninsula, but the Miami-based hurricane center said a steady weakening of Ophelia was forecast through Monday.
Meanwhile, in the mid-Atlantic, Tropical Storm Philippe also weakened considerably on Sunday as it churned on a west-northwest track about 825 miles (1,330 km) east-southeast of Bermuda.
The hurricane center said Philippe, which posed no risk to land, had seen its top sustained winds drop to 50 miles (85 km) an hour after revving up to near hurricane force overnight.
Forecasters expect Philippe to swing north and then northeast later this week on a track that will keep it well away from the U.S. east coast.
(Writing by Tom Brown; editing by Philip Barbara)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
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