Alleged Libyan rape victim lands at refugee hub

Iman Al-Obeidi is seen in Tripoli in this March 26, 2011 file photo, after storming into a hotel's breakfast room to show her wounds to foreign media.
file,AP Photo/Jerome Delay

TIMISOARA, Romania - A Libyan woman who claims she was raped by Muammar Qaddafi's troops has arrived at a U.N. refugee center in Romania, an official said Tuesday.

Iman al-Obeidi, 29, made headlines around the world in March when she rushed into Libya's Rixos Hotel and told foreign reporters covering the country's pro-democracy insurgency that she had been gang raped by Libyan troops who detained her at a checkpoint in Tripoli.

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Since then, al-Obeidi's ordeal has taken her to Tunisia, Qatar, Italy and now Romania, and her sister says the refugee's ultimate goal is to start a new life in the United States.

She is staying at the U.N. refugee transit center in the western Romanian city of Timisoara, the only one of its kind in Europe. It is a temporary haven for refugees from around the world awaiting resettlement to a third country.

Al-Obeidi will "have the same treatment as other refugees: medical treatment, psychological counseling and interviews with authorities from the country where she will be relocated," said UNHCR spokeswoman Claudia Liute. "It is a delicate case and I can't say more. She will leave Romania in a maximum of six months."

UNHCR representative Machiel Salomons urged journalists to give al-Obeidi and other refugees at the camp "space and privacy" as they begin to recover from their traumatic ordeals.

Salomons said al-Obeidi was evacuated from Libya on Sunday by UNHCR staff and flown to Romania via Italy, arriving at the refugee camp late that day.

Liute said she could not discuss al-Obeidi's medical condition, how long she will remain at the U.N. center or where she wants to relocate. But al-Obeidi's sister, Marwa, has said Iman wants to move to the United States.

Tripoli's Rixos Hotel is where all foreign correspondents are forced to stay while covering the part of Libya under Qaddafi's control in his battle against the rebels.

When Iman al-Obeidi rushed into the building in March, she shouted out her story about being stopped at the Tripoli checkpoint, dragged away and gang raped by soldiers. As she spoke emotionally, and as photographers and reporters recorded her words, Libya government minders, whose job is to escort reporters around the area, jumped her and dragged her away.

She disappeared for several days, then turned up in Tunisia and later Qatar. She was rarely heard from until Thursday, when she was suddenly expelled from Qatar and ended up in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya. Qatar offered no explanation.

Al-Obeidi has said she was targeted by Qaddafi's troops because she is from Benghazi. Her rape claim could not be independently verified. The Associated Press identifies only rape victims who volunteer their names.