March 5, 2011 / 12:23 AM / 8 years ago

Death toll rises in east from fighting, blast

BENGHAZI/AJDABIYA, Libya (Reuters) - The death toll from Friday’s fighting around Ras Lanuf in east Libya and what rebels said was an attack by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces on an arms store, also in the east, has reached 26, doctors said.

Speaking on Saturday, they said the total number from both events could rise as more bodies were found or brought in.

Rebels said Gaddafi’s forces bombed an arms depot on Friday at Rajma, on the outskirts of Libya’s second city of Benghazi, which is now in rebel hands. Further east, rebels fought with pro-Gaddafi troops for control of Ras Lanuf, an oil terminal.

Ras Lanuf was firmly in rebel control on Saturday and the frontline had moved west of the town.

A doctor, who asked not to be named, at Martyrs’ Hospital in Benghazi, where most dead from the munitions store blast were brought, put the total dead from that incident at 19 so far.

“The bodies of 12 who died there were brought here and the other main Benghazi hospital has seven more dead,” the source said, adding that he understood six more ambulances were on the way with bodies found in the search.

“Most of the dead were residents in houses that were close to the military base,” he said.

Ramadan Salem, a doctor at a hospital at another eastern rebel-held town of Ajdabiya, said eight dead had arrived at the hospital from Ras Lanuf. He said two were Gaddafi loyalists and six were rebels. He also said there were 25 injured.

Speaking about the Rajma munitions dump blast, businessman Youssef said from his bed: “I was praying at the mosque in Rajma when I heard an explosion and then the next thing I knew I was in the hospital. I don’t know what happened to my brothers who were praying with me.”

He had two fractured femurs and was using an oxygen mask.

An ambulance driver, Hamid Said, said: “I was at the Rajma military base to see what was happening there. The explosion behind me threw me many metres through the air. I don’t know what happened to my friend. No one can tell me. I heard no planes before the explosion.”

Writing by Edmund Blair in Cairo; Editing by Jon Hemming

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