For Misrata ambulances, every run is life or death

Fri Apr 22, 2011 1:24pm GMT

Michael Georgy

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Driving an ambulance in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata is always a matter of life or death these days -- not only for the injured passenger in the back, but also for the luckless driver in the front.

Drivers say snipers and mortar operators loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, waging a bitter street-by-street war of attrition against rebels across Misrata, regard an ambulance as a juicy target.

"They know me and I know them," said Ibrahim Abu Lerfa, describing what he said was a deadly game of cat and mouse between him and government soldiers on the front lines of Misrata, which has been under siege for over seven weeks.

"The other day I was parked on a street and a mortar landed near me. I know they were trying to kill me. There was no fighting, it was a quiet area. I moved to another street and then a mortar landed there as well."

There is no way to verify such reports independently. The government denies deliberately attacking civilians in Misrata and elsewhere and says the rebels trying to end Gaddafi's four-decade rule are al Qaeda militants.

Four ambulance drivers are undergoing treatment for injuries suffered in what they say were attacks on them by government forces. Hundreds of fighters and civilians have been hurt in the Misrata conflict overall.

Conditions are hard enough for the drivers without the fear of suffering the same fate as the injured people they transport to an overstrained hospital.

Some drivers don't have proper communications equipment. So all they can do is park on the edge of battle zones and await word on casualties there.   Continued...

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