TWO Libyan freedom fighters who lost family members in the war to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi will leave Limerick this week and return home “to build a new Libya”.
After receiving treatment in Barringtons private hospital over the past eight weeks, teacher Bashir Hamed Elnaas (37) and truck driver Youcef Elrutub (34) will be finally returning home.
“Home is home. No one wants to leave their own country,” said Mr Elrutub, who had shrapnel lodged in his hand and both legs. “I am better than before but still in a little bit of pain,” he told the Limerick Leader through a translator.
However, the shrapnel which entered his legs from a grenade is buried too deep for it to be removed at present, and he will have to return to be assessed here in another six months.
Mr Elrutub, who lost his older brother and his first cousin in the war, said freedom has come at a price, but he is excited about Libya’s future.
He said he loved the “beautiful scenery” in Ireland, but found the weather very cold, and the days long. “I never expected it to be so green,” he said of the countryside.
Mr Bashir said: “It is our duty to go back home and build Libya. Our country needs us now. Gadaffi didn’t paint a good picture of Libyans. We were viewed as terrorists, but we’re not. We’re good, kind people. But that’s past tense. We’re looking to the future of Libya and building it for the next generation.”
“The people of Limerick have been very welcoming,” he added. He suffered shrapnel wounds in his chest and left arm, but has recovered well from his injuries.
Both men, as well as two others who will remain on in Limerick for further treatment, participated in an English language course in Griffith College during their time here. Another patient in Barringtons, 28-year-old banker Walid Elhafi, may have to spend up to one year here after he was shot twice. He is currently confined to a wheelchair after two operations on his foot. Mr Elhafi saw his left arm and left leg completely broken after jumping from three stories from a rooftop building, as he tried to flee snipers.
The men have been staying in a hotel close to the hospital during their stay. It is expected some six Libyans will leave a number of Irish hospitals over the coming week, but more Libyan patients are expected to arrive here over the coming months, depending on the approval of both governments. The cost of their treatment is being paid for by the Libyan government.