Saturday 10 December 2016

The only cold thing here is weather, say delighted Libyan freedom fighters

Barry Duggan

Published 10/12/2011 | 05:00

FOUR Libyan freedom fighters airlifted to Ireland for war-wound rehabilitation have just one complaint about their host nation -- the cold.

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But the warm welcome and care they are receiving is proving a massive boost to aiding them in their recovery from injuries suffered while fighting Col Muammar Gaddafi's soldiers.

Banker Walid Elhafi (28), teacher Bashir Hamed Elnaas (37), truck driver Youcef Elrutub (34) and financial manager Ramamadan Alezoumi (25) are on the mend at a top private hospital in Limerick.

Sitting in his day-care bed at Barrington's Hospital, Mr Elhafi last night spoke of the "amazing warmth" he had received since arriving last weekend.

"The care we are receiving here is amazing. I am beginning to feel better already," he said.

"The Irish are so friendly, especially in the hospital. We are very grateful for all they are doing."

Three weeks ago, the banker leapt three stories from a roof-top building to safety after being shot twice in the left arm by snipers loyal to Gaddafi.

In addition to the deep gunshot wounds, Mr Elhafi completely shattered his left ankle in the jump to safety. He will need three months of rehab on his injured leg.

"I may not recover fully from my leg injury as my ankle is completely shattered, but I have every confidence in the team here that I will," he said.

Comfortable

"We are very comfortable here. Irish people are so warm. The only thing that is cold in Ireland is your weather."

Recalling the life-and-death moment, he said he had no choice but to jump to safety.

"Our unit was sent to check out an area and told to go up a stairs and out on to a roof, but sniper fire came from all around us.

"I was hit twice and had no choice but to jump as I was completely exposed. Two of the snipers were killed but I was very lucky to survive.

"I miss my family but I am really happy to be here. We are very lucky because the Libyan Health Office of Ireland has given each of us a new laptop and mobile phone to allow us talk to our loved ones back home," he added.

The Libyan Health Office in Ireland was set up recently to care for those injured in the effort to overthrow the Gaddafi regime.

Fourteen wounded fighters from Libya flew into Shannon last Sunday, soon after a former consultant at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Dr Fatima Hamroush, was appointed Libyan Health Minister last month.

While four are being treated at Barrington's, three others are at Cappagh Hospital in Dublin and another seven are at Bon Secours Hospital, Galway.

Irish Independent

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