ROME (Reuters) - Italy evacuated 22 wounded Libyans for medical treatment in Rome, some of whom were involved in fighting this week for control of the eastern oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, Italy’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
An Italian C130-J Air Force plane fitted for medical transport picked up the wounded on Wednesday at the Benina base in Benghazi, Libya, a statement said, and brought them to the capital, where they are being treated at a military hospital.
The Libya National Army (LNA) recaptured the ports southwest of Benghazi after a rival faction known as the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) seized them earlier this month, disrupting oil production from the OPEC member.
Some of those evacuated had been wounded in earlier fighting, a government source said. It was the first time Italy had helped the wounded from the LNA, which supports the Tobruk parliament and not the rival U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, the source said.
Italy opened a military field hospital in Misrata last year, and it has conducted a number of similar flights since the start of 2016.
Italy wants to help stabilise the country, which has been torn by civil war since strong-man Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in 2011, in part to stop people smugglers who have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants to Italy by boat.
Italy, with backing from other European Union states, signed an agreement to fight human trafficking with Tripoli’s U.N.-backed government in February. Italy and the EU have pledged to fund migrant camps in Libya and to train and equip the Libyan Coast Guard.
Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Dominic Evans