and Mathieu Galtier
BANI WALID – Government forces stationed at Bir Dufan have been accused of using gas on civilians from Bani Walid during an attack that took place Monday.
Following two visits to the town, the Libya Herald learned that 26 patients had been admitted to hospital with symptoms including hallucinations, foaming at the mouth, muscle spasms, coughing, eye irritations, dizziness, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness.
A further 30 people were wounded following bombardments that took place Sunday and Monday, in which Grad rockets and tanks were allegedly used.
Three of the patients remain in a serious condition, including a 12-year old boy and his 16-year old sister, who are suffering from severe burns.
The attacks were primarily focused on the Mordum area, some 20 km northeast of Bani Walid, although a few buildings were hit in the town itself.
Clashes also took place in Mordum on Oct. 2, shortly after government forces took up positions at four separate locations surrounding Bani Walid.
One man was killed, named locally as Muammar Dammi, while several others were injured.
“We started receiving patients with strange symptoms that I have not seen before,” said Taha Mohammed, a doctor at Bani Walid hospital, in reference to Monday’s attack.
“Those affected were having difficulty breathing, reported dizziness and were coughing. Not everybody displayed the same symptoms, but some were also suffering from hallucinations, foaming at the mouth and loss of consciousness. We believe they had been exposed to some sort of gas.” Mohammed said he had been unable to identify precisely what kind of gas, if any, was used, as the hospital did not possess the necessary equipment.
A doctor’s note from the hospital dated Oct. 8 listed a number of the aforementioned symptoms, adding that “the response of those patients to routine medical treatments was slow and incomplete, which makes the inhalation of toxic gas a very strong possibility. All of them are very well and healthy individuals with no history of heart or lung diseases before this occasion.”
It remains a possibility that residents were exposed to emissions from a facility that may have been hit during the bombardment as opposed to directly from the munitions themselves.
“I heard an explosion, my eyes became irritated and my mouth dried up,” said Ramadan Sahad Ramadan, one of the patients said to have been exposed to the gas, who also showed signs of breathing problems.
“I saw many tanks, I heard a big explosion and then I woke up in the hospital,” said Abubaker Sudani, another patient, who had no external injuries resulting from the blast. “I have difficulty breathing, I cannot see properly and I have thrown-up.”
Responding to the allegations, Colonel Ali Sheikhi, a spokesman for Chief of Staff General Yusuf Mangoush, denied that any gas had been used.
“No gas has been used against Bani Walid”, he said. “We do not possess any such weapon”.
Sheikhi stated, however, that Mangoush had not authorized the recent actions against Bani Walid, effectively conceding that the forces at Bir Dufan had acted unilaterally.
One soldier stationed at Bir Dufan confirmed that an attack had taken place but also denied that any gas was used.
“We don’t have any gas,” said the Misratan, who requested to remain anonymous. “We don’t have that and we wouldn’t use that against civilians. You saw what we had with your own eyes when you came. We have some Grads up front, a few tanks, and the vehicles [flat-bed pick-up trucks fitted with machine guns and mounted rocket launchers].” – Libya Herald