A LIBYAN freedom fighter who was shot twice during the civil war to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is preparing to spend up to a year in Limerick for surgery and rehabilitation, with his costs paid for by the Libyan State.
But he may have to spend between nine months to one year in a hotel in Limerick city as he prepares to be fit enough to return to Libya.
A spokesperson for the Libyan Health Office in Ireland, said “these men were on the frontline defending their country and deserve every cent and the best treatment that can be provided”.
Mr Elhafi saw his left leg and left leg completely broken after jumping from three stories from a rooftop building, when he was shot twice in the arm as he tried to flee snipers. On the day he arrived in Limerick he couldn’t move one finger, his translator said, but is already making steady progress and is in good spirits.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader, Mr Elhafi said he feared he was going to die that day “because I was bleeding so much.”
“I am just a civilian. I am not in the army, but we fought for freedom. He [Gaddafi] is gone now and we are so happy,” said Mr Elhafi, who misses his seven siblings in Libya.
For the past fortnight he along with teacher Bashir Hamed Elnaas (37), truck driver Youcef Elrutub (34) and financial manager Ramamadan Alezoumi (25) have been receiving specialist treatment for their injuries at Barringtons private hospital in Limerick.
Their recovery will be slow, and they miss their families greatly, but the four men are getting used to local life and sampling the tourist delights of the mid-west, including a visit to King John’s Castle and Dromoland Castle in Clare.
Over the Christmas period it is planned they will spend time with other Libyan families living locally, and go swimming in the Olympic-sized swimming pool in the University of Limerick Arena to help with their physiotherapy.
Mr Elrutub, speaking through a translator, said he “couldn’t believe the unity of Libyans in Ireland” when he arrived in Shannon Airport a few weeks ago.
* A full version of this story was published in the Limerick Leader, print edition, dated December 17, 2011