Libyan rape victim escapes to Tunisia with defecting military officer
Published 09/05/2011 | 10:57
The woman who sprung to worldwide attention after alleging that she had been gang-raped by Gaddafi forces has escaped from Libya, saying she fears for her safety.
Iman al-Obeidi fled in disguise, accompanied by a defecting military officer who used his official pass to get them through regime checkpoints and into rebel territory.
She used an official military car and dressed in Berber tribal costume, with a headscarf covering "everything except one eye", she said in an interview with CNN. She crossed to Tunisia through the rebel-held Dehiba border post on Thursday and is now under the protection of European diplomats.
Mrs al-Obeidi burst in to a hotel used by foreign journalists in central Tripoli on March 26, saying she had been taken from an official checkpoint, held for two days and raped by 15 men. Pictures of her forcible removal from the hotel by Libyan security officials shocked the world. The escape was "very tiring," she said, adding: "I still do not know what I am going to do. Of course I would like to see my family." The Libyan government says she was not raped and is a fantasist. Her attackers have launched a legal case against her for defamation.
The regime intensified pressure on rebel forces over the weekend. Thick smoke hung over the rebel-controlled city of Misurata after a government rocket attack blew up its four main operational fuel tanks on Saturday, making it significantly harder for the rebels to resist the siege. Rebel-held towns in the western mountains were also bombarded.
It also emerged on Sunday that 61 African migrants were reportedly left to die of thirst and hunger in the Mediterranean after several Nato military units allegedly ignored their distress calls.
The incident occurred in late March, when a boat carrying 72 passengers left Libya for the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The survivors said alarms were raised with the Italian coastguard, and contact made with a military helicopter and Nato warship, but no rescue effort was launched.
A spokesman for Nato said it had not logged any distress signals from the boat and had no records of the incident.