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Wounded tell of hell in besieged Misrata

By Sara Sidner, CNN
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Misrata: Horror movie come to life
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Wounded evacuees from Misrata tell of attacks on civilians and rebel fighters
  • Witnesses describe a living hell hiding in cellars as missiles rain down
  • Their statements could be evidence war crimes are being committed
  • They left Misrata on an aid ship with about 800 evacuees on board

Benghazi, Libya (CNN) -- Inside the Intensive Care Unit at Benghazi Medical Center the injuries to the patients are horrendous. One patient has suffered a paralyzing bullet to the head, another is missing a left leg, has a broken right leg and is on a respirator, yet another has burns to his face and is barely conscious.

The maimed men are the latest arrivals in the Libyan rebel stronghold from the besieged city of Misrata -- the center of the most ferocious fighting between Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's forces and fighters trying to oust his government.

More than 800 people managed to get out of the city on the latest aid ship chartered by the International Organization for Migration.

Some were migrant workers, others extremely sick or wounded people who had no chance of survival if they stayed put.

"The ship was attempting to dock for two day but they could not. One day they were finally able to get in to get us. Some rushed to the ship but the rest of the wounded could not because the shelling was non-stop," Ibrahim Al-Neairy said.

Al-Neairy had taken up arms against Gadhafi forces when he was injured. His face is scarred from blast burns, his body is embedded with shrapnel, and his head is filled with images of dead friends lost in battle.

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But he is alive and angry at what is happening to people in the city.

"They are shelling the port and civilian neighborhoods. It has become an operation for revenge, not just taking over the city of Misrata," Al-Neairy said.

It isn't just fighters from the front line who are occupying the hospital beds.

Just down the hall in the women's ward, patient Hana Mohammad sits with her arm all bandaged up a victim of shelling. She has shrapnel wounds all over her body.

"I was in my house praying when the first missile landed. Shortly after, more missiles, one after another, started hitting our neighborhood and its houses. About 10 missiles landed, one every five minutes," she said.

One of those missiles hit her home where she was huddled with several members of her extended family. Three relatives did not make it out alive.

She and her husband survived and saw the remains of their city as they made their way to the ship to Benghazi.

"People are scared every moment of the day no matter their age: children, young, old, and women--everyone. It is like a horror movie. Oh God it is like a horror movie," she said.

Several patients said the shelling was coming from outside the city where rebels had pushed Gadhafi's troops.

If what the patients are describing is accurate, it could be evidence war crimes are being committed. The international criminal court says it has grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been -- and continue to be -- committed in Libya.

Those rescued say the journey down the Mediterranean coast took 16 hours and the shelling never seemed to end. According to witnesses the city is in ruins.

"There was blood and destruction everywhere. I saw death before me. Everything was horrible," Hanan Mohamad said.

She said most residents couldn't go out safely, not even for food. Instead groups of young men have formed to pick up rations from aid organizations and distribute them to homes.

While Misrata's injured endure physical pain, one patient sits on her bed along crying tears of shame and regret.

"I want to go back. I wish I hadn't left," 25-year-old Najah said.

She was taken to port by ambulance and needs surgery from a complication to her pregnancy. She's still having trouble coming to terms with what she went through.

Amid the death and destruction, Najah had to leave her three young daughters behind; ages five, three, and five months.

"It is as if I left my heart back in Misrata."

If the stories the wounded and sick survivors are telling is any indication of what people continue to endure there, Misrata has become a living hell.

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