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Iman al-Obeidi, Libyan Woman Who Claimed Rape, Heads To U.S.

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IMAN ALOBEIDI
File - Iman Al-Obeidi is seen in Tripoli in this Saturday March 26, 2011 file photo , after storming into a hotel's breakfast room to show her wounds to foreign media. A Libyan woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel to tell foreign journalists that she was gang raped by Moammar Gadhafi's troops says she is not in custody. Iman al-Obeidi made headlines when she was dragged away from the hotel by government officials as she screamed her allegations of rape. A government official said she was a prost | AP

BENGHAZI, Libya — A Libyan woman who claimed she was raped by Gadhafi troops has left Libya on her way to the United States, her sister said Sunday.

Marwa al-Obeidi said her sister Iman was flown out of Benghazi early Sunday morning. It was not immediately known where she was going in the U.S.

Wearing gray pajamas and sitting with her mother in a cramped hotel room in Benghazi, Marwa al-Obeidi said she had spent the day crying because it was hard to see her sister leave, but knew this trip was best for her.

"We just want a chance for her to be treated psychologically and to rest. My sister has just been through so much," Marwa told The Associated Press.

It appeared difficult for their mother, Aisha bin Ismail, to speak about her daughter. She turned her head away to take a breath and hold back tears as she described Iman's last few weeks.

"Iman locked herself in her room in Doha and refused to leave the house. She would get nightmares and fall off the bed," bin Ismail told The Associated Press.

In March, al-Obeidi rushed into Tripoli's Rixos Hotel where all foreign correspondents are forced to stay while covering the part of Libya under Gadhafi's control.

She shouted out her story of being stopped at a a checkpoint, dragged away and gang-raped by soldiers.

As she spoke emotionally and as photographers and reporters recorded her words, 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 Benghazi. Qatar offered no explanation.

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

Marwa al-Obeidi told The Associated Press that a human rights group aided by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arranged for Iman and their father to travel in a private plane to Washington, D.C. by way of Malta and Austria.

The State Department expressed concern for al-Obeidi's safety after she was deported from Qatar. A U.N. human rights body called the deportation a violation of international law, because she was a recognized refugee.

Libyan authorities have alternately labeled al-Obeidi a drunk, a prostitute and a thief.

Marwa al-Obeidi maintained that Qatar was friendly with the family until the last few hours before deportation. She said that Qatari authorities gave the family five hours notice to get on a military plane and leave Doha.

"Iman wanted to travel directly to America from Qatar, but for some logistical reasons Qatar wouldn't allow it. That's when they didn't treat us very nicely," said Marwa al-Obeidi . She and her mother refused to let AP photographers or TV crews take their pictures.

Iman al-Obeidi's family said that while they had no plans to leave Libya, they encouraged Iman al-Obeidi to travel abroad because she constantly lived in fear there.

"Iman constantly felt scared and threatened even in Benghazi," said bin Ismail. "She was worried that at any moment Gadhafi's men would be near to kill her."

She said that the United States was one of her biggest champions since the beginning of her cause especially since it galvanized world opinion against Gadhafi and his record of alleged human rights abuses.

Marwa al-Obeidi said Iman's top priority in the U.S. would be to receive psychological treatment and to continue her studies there.

"I am sure they will greet her with such warmth and kindness." she said. "We are happy for her."

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