Wounded children show ferocity of Misrata's war

Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:04am GMT

By Nick Carey

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - When 12-year-old Mohammed Bielshak left the house with his brother Ali on March 20, it was to give water from their well to thirsty rebels nearby who were fighting forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

"All we wanted to do was help the revolutionaries," Mohammed said.

While they were out in the street, they were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Ali, 14, sustained shrapnel wounds in the leg and stomach and now walks with crutches. Mohammed lost his right arm just below the elbow and his left thumb and was blinded in his left eye. His right leg was fractured and has had reconstructive surgery on his left leg.

NATO began a bombing campaign March 19 to protect civilians from the Libyan government, which was suppressing an uprising against Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

Gaddafi's government has denied that it has deliberately targeted civilians and says it is waging a war against armed criminals and al Qaeda militants. But Mohammed is in no doubt about who fired the grenade that day in Misrata.

"It was Gaddafi's militia," he said, unprompted, as he winced during his regular treatment at the Al Jazeera Physiotherapy Centre. "They fired the RPG at us."

The rebels here have pushed Gaddafi loyalists out of the city and to a front line around 36 km (22 miles) west of Libya's third largest city. They are now 10 km (six miles) east of Zlitan, the largest city between them and the capital Tripoli.

Mohammed is just one of the thousands of casualties of the fighting in and around Misrata since the start of the uprising. As a great many wounded have been sent abroad for treatment -- Mohammed, for instance, was treated in Turkey for two months before returning home -- the true price of Misrata's freedom from Gaddafi's rule is as yet unknown, not least because data is hard to come by.   Continued...

Libyan boys play on a beach in Benghazi June 26, 2011. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
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