Bloomberg News

UN Humanitarian Chief Warns Libyans of Risk to Sirte Civilians

October 11, 2011

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations humanitarian chief warned of the threat to civilians in the Libyan city of Sirte, where fighting has led to shortages of water, food and medical supplies.

Forces loyal to Libya’s interim government and supporters of Muammar Qaddafi must make an effort to “spare civilians from the effects of hostilities, and to comply with international humanitarian law,” Valerie Amos, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, said late yesterday. “The sick and injured must be allowed to seek and receive medical assistance, and both civilians and captured fighters must be treated with respect.”

Thousands of civilians have already fled Sirte, Qaddafi’s hometown, during lulls in the fighting, which erupted early last month after talks on the coastal city’s surrender broke down. They have said that electricity has been cut and many people are still holding out for fear of retaliatory attacks.

Sirte lies about 300 miles (483 kilometers) east of the capital, Tripoli, and links the east and western parts of the country. It is one of the last major strongholds of Qaddafi loyalists.

The National Transitional Council, which took over control of the country from Qaddafi in August, says a new government to see the country through to elections won’t be announced until a month after Sirte is fully under its control. The NTC says it already controls Sirte’s port, airport and university.

The military council of Misrata, a city in western Libya, says at least 300 of its fighters were wounded and 16 killed during two days of battles.

Bani Walid

The Misrata forces, who are leading the Sirte offensive and cooperating with the NTC’s army though their command structures aren’t integrated, say they are searching residential areas after taking control of Ouagadougou Hall, a walled conference center used by Qaddafi loyalists as a base, and the city’s main Ibn Sina hospital.

Battles are also raging in Bani Walid, a landlocked town held by Qaddafi supporters where NTC forces say more senior loyalists are hiding, including Saif al-Islam, Qaddafi’s son and presumed heir.

--Editors: Ben Holland, Louis Meixler.

To contact the reporter on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.


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