Fears for civilians trapped in Bani Walid

2012-10-24 07:50

Geneva - Red Cross and Red Crescent workers expressed fears for civilians caught up in intense fighting in Bani Walid, as they started giving aid to thousands who had already fled the Libyan town.

"We are very concerned about the effects of the violence on the entire civilian population still in Bani Walid," said Ishfaq Muhammad Khan, who heads the ICRC delegation in Libya.

"The situation is made all the more dangerous by the fact that the fighting is taking place in densely populated areas."

Aid workers handed out supplies to thousands of civilians, though Asma Khaliq Awan, the delegate in charge of distributions, said it was difficult to give an accurate figure for how many had fled.

But Awan added: "Most of the displaced are women and children. Conditions are very difficult for all, with hygiene a particular concern. These people urgently need food, water and hygiene items."

Awan also spoke of some people being "stranded on sand roads in the desert", having failed to make the main transit points of Orban and Temesla Wadi Mansour.

The ICRC also said it had transferred about 60 foreign workers, mainly from Bangladesh and India, away from Bani Walid: they had already walked at least 30km to escape the fighting.

Together with the Libyan Red Crescent, Red Cross workers handed out food, plastic sheeting, mattresses, blankets and other basic goods, it said in a statement.

Bani Walid, one of the final bastions of the former regime of Muammar Gaddafi, has been targeted by Libya's new rulers, who accuse it of harbouring die-hard Gaddafi loyalists

The operation started after the death of a former rebel credited with having captured Gaddafi: he was kidnapped, allegedly tortured and shot in the town.

Before Tuesday's intervention there, the ICRC said it had entered the town twice since the fighting started: on October 10 and 19, to deliver medical supplies.

The town, which is 170km southeast of Tripoli,was one of the last to fall to anti-Gaddafi rebels in the 2011 conflict that toppled the long-time dictator.