Catania (AFP) Feb 27, 2011
An Italian warship brought hundreds of foreign nationals from the Libyan port of Misurata to Sicily on Sunday as mass evacuations criss-crossed the Mediterranean and Asian workers returned home.
Hundreds of Filipinos, Indians and Vietnamese -- part of the oil-rich North African state's giant multinational workforce -- said they had feared for their lives as they were greeted back in their homelands in emotional scenes.
"This escape of mine makes me feel I am in heaven," said Mohammed Sali, 63, an engineer, after landing in New Delhi. "One man came and put the knife on my neck. He took all my belongings -- laptop, chain, even my car."
Moben Kureshi, 27, a factory worker, said: "The situation of Indians, especially those who are residing in workers camps, is very bad as the camps have been burnt down and there is no shelter, food and water."
Tens of thousands of foreign workers have been fleeing Libya by air, land and sea that the United Nations says has left more than 1,000 people dead in a bloody crackdown by supporters of Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi.
The Italian warship, the San Giorgio, that docked in the Sicilian port of Catania on Sunday carried 121 Italians fleeing the escalating turmoil in Misurata -- the scene of several violent clashes in recent days.
Among the 258 passengers there were also citizens of Albania, Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Croatia, France, India, Macedonia, Mexico, the Philippines, Portugal, Slovakia, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler, said it had evacuated more than 1,400 of its citizens so far from the turmoil in Libya. Italy's foreign ministry said Libya had around 1,500 Italian residents before the start of the crisis.
The Red Crescent organisation meanwhile warned of a "humanitarian crisis" taking shape on Libya's land border with Tunisia, where more than 40,000 people have fled in the past week including more than 15,000 Egyptians.
On Saturday, more than 150 foreign nationals were flown to Malta on two British Royal Air Force C130 Hercules transport planes after being rescued from remote oil installations in the Libyan desert by special forces.
"We flew treetop all the way across the desert, it was quite spectacular. It was a big, big relief to see those guys," Siemens employee Nigel Bilton, one of those rescued, was quoted as saying by The Sunday Times newspaper.
A British warship, the HMS Cumberland, also docked in Malta on Saturday carrying hundreds of evacuees and set off back for Libya to pick up more stranded foreigners. The HMS York has also left Malta for Libyan shores.
A Chinese-chartered ferry with more than 2,000 Chinese workers on board arrived on Saturday in Malta, which is the closest European Union member state to Libya and has been a major hub for evacuation efforts in recent days.
China said it had evacuated nearly 16,000 Chinese nationals from Libya out of more than 30,000 working in the country and has said it will be sending 15 aircraft a day for the next two weeks to speed up the evacuations.
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Iraq attack prompts refinery closure
Samarra, Iraq (AFP) Feb 26, 2011
An attack on Iraq's biggest oil refinery early on Saturday left two engineers dead and one of its refining units badly damaged, prompting the facility to shut down, a senior official said. The attack on the Baiji refinery, in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad, struck at around 4:30 am (0130 GMT) when gunmen stormed the installation, killed the engineers and planted bombs at the refining u ... read more
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