February 27, 2017 / 11:00 PM / 9 months ago

Islamic State forced Philippine nurses to give medical training in Libya

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A Philippine nurse held by Islamic State in the Libyan city of Sirte said on Monday that she and her colleagues had been forced to treat militants and give them medical training.

Filipino nurses, who were freed from Islamic State militants by Libyan forces in Sirte, pose for a group photo during a handover ceremony in the presence of a Filipino envoy in Tripoli, Libya, February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

The nurse is from a group of seven women, one man and a 10-month-old child who are being repatriated from Libya to the Philippines. They were freed from Sirte when local forces drove Islamic State from the city last year.

Islamic State took full control of Sirte in early 2015, turning it into their North African stronghold and holding dozens of foreign captives. The Philippine nationals are medical staff who were among foreign workers already in the city when it came under the ultra-hardline group’s rule.

“When they found out we were Muslim they released us but under a strict condition that we will have to work as nurses in their hospital and we had to train ISIS (Islamic State) on emergency care and nursing course,” the nurse told reporters in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

“It was a horrible time. Each day we lived in fear. We didn’t know what was going to happen next. And they threatened to kill us if we left Sirte.”

The Philippine staff worked at Sirte’s main hospital, which Islamic State used to treat their wounded fighters until they were pushed out of central Sirte in August.

Militants then retreated toward their final strongholds near Sirte’s seafront, taking medical equipment and foreign captives with them.

Islamic State was defeated in Sirte in early December, after nearly seven months of fighting. The Philippine medical staff and many of the other foreign captives were freed in the final stages of the battle.

Since then they have been held in Misrata, the city that led the military campaign in Sirte. Also held there are dozens of women from sub-Saharan Africa who were captured while crossing Libya as migrants and used as sex slaves in Sirte.

Earlier this month an Indian doctor who had also been trapped in Sirte, Ramamurthy Kosanam, was flown out of Libya.

He said on Sunday that he had worked in field hospitals run by Islamic State for about two-and-a-half months, and was shot in the hand and both legs during battles before being rescued by local Libyan fighters.

Reporting by Hani Amara; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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