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Attacks raze Libyan oil town, civilians flee in despair

By Miranda Leitsinger, msnbc.com
People are fleeing the eastern oil town of Ras Lanouf, which is coming under heavy bombardment from the air, sea and mountains by Gadhafi forces, a human rights activist on the frontline says.

Most civilian buildings were destroyed and a large mosque was also bombed on Thursday, said the activist with the Free Libo Group (Libo refers to the aboriginal tribe of Libya). Though most civilians escaped, some people were trapped in town, including some Western journalists.

"We left them behind. We do not know their fate," the activist said in a Skype call with msnbc.com. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the threats to opposition forces

The bodies of seven men killed in the fighting were taken to a hospital in Brega, a town next to Ras Lanouf. Another 22 injured men were being treated at the hospital, though overall casualty numbers were hard to determine, the activist said.

"It’s mostly empty, the town. The medical center in town is not fully equipped to deal with a catastrophe."

The attack on Ras Lanouf intensified in the afternoon, and the activist said he escaped injury after shrapnel struck the car he was in.

Residents were heading east. A family that headed west two days ago died when their car was hit in an attack, and now anti-Gadhafi fighters were blocking movement west to protect people.

Most of containers at the port were hit, according to engineers the activist spoke with, and water supplies that go into town were also struck.

People were "upset and depressed, frightened – both the civilians and the fighters.”

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