Misrata Recovering From Libya's Bloody Battles

The Libyan town of Misrata endured relentless shelling by pro-Gadhafi forces, leaving a swath of destruction through its main district. But amid the rows of bullet-pocked, burned-out buildings, shops are opening and people are trying to resume something like normal life. Some volunteers in the town have even created a sort of open-air museum of the military hardware that nearly brought them down.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DAVID GREENE, host: Now let's turn to our correspondent in Libya, who has been expecting the damage inflicted by war in the western city of Misrata. There were bloody battles in that city, as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi fought to dislodge local rebels. Some streets remains scenes of devastation. But as NPR's Corey Flintoff reports, the people of Misrata are emerging from the ashes.

COREY FLINTOFF: Atia Salhouriati, a tall, bearded young fighter, stands in the middle of Tripoli Street, Misrata's main boulevard, and points to a row of shattered buildings.

ATIA SALHOURIATI: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: This, he says, is where the fighting began. The battle for Misrata surged back and forth for months, from the outbreak of the revolution in mid-February until rebels finally claimed full control of the city in mid-May. Even then, the rebels had to fight through much of the summer to hold what they had gained, as pro-Gadhafi forces kept up a bombardment from the outskirts of the city.

SALHOURIATI: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Everywhere I look, I see buildings that have been blasted and burned by the fighting. Huge holes torn in the concrete sides of buildings, windows blasted out, walls pockmarked with heavy machine gun fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Unintelligible)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Unintelligible)

FLINTOFF: Across the street, some local men have set up an outdoor museum of the munitions that were used against them.

ABDULLAH SHINEBEH: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Abdullah Shinebeh leads the way through a collection of deadly hardware set out in rows according to type, ranging from rocket-propelled grenades to artillery rounds. Like a museum curator, he nudges parts of the display into order as he walks along. Volunteers keep adding new pieces to a wooden box piled with empty machine gun cartridges. Shinebeh shoos away some boys who have climbed a low fence around the display.

SHINEBEH: (Through translator) Such materials, they are still loaded, not exploded yet, so it's risky.

FLINTOFF: Shinebeh says most of the armaments were found in the neighboring buildings. The fighting hit Tripoli Street like a tornado with the same inexplicable pattern that leaves some shops almost intact while the ones on either side are blasted. After dusk, the intact shops show up as rectangles of light in the dark facades - a shoe store, an Internet cafe, even restaurants.

MOHAMMAD AL-KARAMI: In such night, you will find a lot of people who are standing in line waiting for their meals. You will find shops are opening. It is something incredible.

FLINTOFF: Twenty-eight-year-old Mohammad Al-Karami stands outside a chicken takeout shop with a crowd of young men. He's a dentist but he says he's been a fighter since the start of the revolution. Karami says Tripoli Street was hell on Earth but that people started cleaning it as soon as the fighting was over. The cleanest place on this block may be Haitham Ehwaidat's stationary store stacked with supplies for the schools that are reopening this week. He says he wanted to open as quickly as he could to honor the fighters who won his city's freedom.

HAITHAM EHWAIDAT: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Ehwaidat says the storefront was hit by shrapnel and he holds up a new briefcase with a neat hole near the top.

EHWAIDAT: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He shows the chunk of mortar shell that punched the hole, then lodged in his wall. He says he plans to keep the briefcase on display as a sign of what the people here suffered.

MOHAMMED AL-KARAMI: I think Misrata give the whole world an example of what made the courage and the determination never to give up. So I believe Misrata is a very special case.

FLINTOFF: Mohammed Al-Karami says he hopes the heart of his city will return to Tripoli Street in the coming months. That, he says, is what he fought for. Corey Flintoff, NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: