War Crimes on Both Sides in Libyan Chaos
August 27, 2011
AntiWar.com & The New York Times & Reuters
A growing number of accounts suggest that both the NATO-backed rebels and the Gadhafi regime's remnant forces are committing brutal atrocities in the Libyan capital, with evidence that each side has taken to massacring captives. Reports from escaped regime prisoners say that the Gadhafi forces killed a number of captured rebels, while yesterday a number of regime troops were found bound and executed, the apparent victims of a rebel onslaught.
Atrocities Abound in War-Torn Tripoli
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
TRIPOLI (August 26, 2011) -- A growing number of accounts across Tripoli suggest that both the NATO-backed rebels and the Gadhafi regime's remnant forces are committing brutal atrocities in the Libyan capital, with evidence that each side has taken to massacring captives from the other side.
Reports from escaped regime prisoners say that the Gadhafi forces killed a number of captured rebels, while yesterday a number of regime troops were found bound and executed, the apparent victims of a rebel onslaught.
It doesn't end there, either, as hundreds of bodies were found in a Tripoli hospital, apparently abandoned by doctors and staff when the fighting got too close. Some locals blamed the Gadhafi forces for killing a number of those inside.
Meanwhile, the rebel forces that took over Abu Salim, a neighborhood long held by regime-loyal troops, stacked the bodies of dark-skinned victims in a captured hospital of their own, claiming they were proof that the regime is using "mercenaries" from other African nations. The rebels have been accused of arresting black people under the assumption that they are all mercenaries, though many of their detainees appear to just be random migrant workers.
Grim Evidence of Fighting's Toll Becomes Clearer in Libya
Anthony Shadid and Kareem Fahim / The New York Times
TRIPOLI, Libya (August 26, 2011) -- As the fighting died down in Tripoli on Friday, the scope and savagery of the violence during the nearly weeklong battle for control of the capital began to come into sharper focus.
Amnesty International said Friday that it had evidence that forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had killed rebels who had been held in custody in two camps. In one camp, it said, guards killed five detainees held in solitary confinement, and in another they opened the gates, telling the rebels they were free to go, then tossed grenades and fired on the men as they tried to run for freedom.
The report, based on accounts from escaped prisoners, cited no death toll, but said that of the 160 detainees attacked, only 23 were known to have escaped.
On Thursday, there were reports that the bullet-riddled bodies of more than 30 pro-Qaddafi fighters had been found at a military encampment in central Tripoli. At least two were bound with plastic handcuffs, suggesting that they had been executed, and five of the dead were found at a field hospital.
More bodies turned up in the streets on Friday, where occasional volleys of gunfire were heard. Near Colonel Qaddafi's abandoned citadel, Bab al-Aziziya, rebels began hauling away nine bloated bodies. The face of one was so badly decayed it appeared charred. Maggots crawled over the torso of another. "Only a butcher could commit a massacre like this," said Sami Omar, a rebel.
Six were dumped near a trash receptacle, two left under a stairwell and one thrown in a large ditch, his hands apparently cuffed.
Rebels said Qaddafi loyalists had killed them as they celebrated his fall. But one resident said they were his fighters, slain by rebels.
As he spoke, a rebel approached him, saying he was not authorized to speak.
In a sign of the intensity of the fighting this week in the capital, 40 bodies, many in advanced states of decomposition, were piled up in an abandoned hospital in the Abu Salim neighborhood, until Friday the preserve of the Qaddafi forces. Most of the fighters were darker skinned than most Libyans, a sign, rebels there said, that they may have been recruited from sub-Saharan Africa. The rebels have frequently accused the Qaddafi government of using mercenaries but have not offered convincing proof.
The halls of the hospital were a chaos of beds and unplugged machines, and its floors were painted with blood. A medical technician said that three doctors had been on duty during the fighting in recent days, and that they had been unable to cope.
It was difficult to ascertain the fates of the dead men, who were lying on gurneys nested by maggots in a hospital room and the morgue. The relatives of one victim, Abdul Raouf Al Rashdi, a 33-year-old police officer, said he had been killed by a sniper several days earlier in the Hay Andalus neighborhood.
Across the jittery capital, residents running short of electricity and supplies but seeming quieter than in past days began pulling back the cloak of secrecy imposed by Colonel Qaddafi's mercurial rule. Scores of pickups and cars carrying rebel fighters and the curious careened into Bab al-Aziziya.
Bombed in 1986 by the United States military, the house had become a shrine of sorts to Colonel Qaddafi’s leadership. Walls were covered with graffiti, scrawled over the years by visitors and delegations from Ghana, Kenya, Russia and elsewhere.
Days after rebels from Misurata and other Libyan towns stormed the compounds, new slogans had gone up. "Libya is free," one read. "Misurata is steadfast," said another.
"This is our history," said Rida Said, 28, a resident of Tripoli, as he walked through the house. "Every tyrant has his end."
Another find at the compound offered what might be a strange twist on history. A reporter for The Irish Times found documents there that seemed to show that the Libyan leader's adopted daughter Hana, who was supposedly killed at age 4 in the 1986 attack, was alive and had been working as a doctor. The paper said it found a medical school exam of hers along with a certificate from an English language course in which she received an A.
Others have reported seeing a spacious and well-appointed office at Tripoli Central Hospital that workers there claimed was Hana Qaddafi's.
On the diplomatic front, rebels said that they had begun to transfer their administration from Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising, to the capital, Tripoli.
The rebel leadership has said it is badly in need of money as it tries to reconstitute a police and military force, collect weapons and stave off a more bloody reckoning with the defenders of Colonel Qaddafi's legacy. In Turkey, Mahmoud Jibril, the de facto rebel prime minister of a leadership still moving to Tripoli, renewed an appeal for the release of frozen assets.
"This needs a lot of money," he said Friday in Istanbul. The leadership, he added, "needs to prove its power by delivering the needs of the Libyan people." He added, "Otherwise, there will be a legitimacy crisis."
His remarks followed a decision by the United Nations Security Council on Thursday to approve an immediate infusion of $1.5 billion in Qaddafi-government assets that the United States seized last spring.
The fight to subdue the recalcitrant loyalist forces was expanded beyond Tripoli on Friday. NATO warplanes struck targets in Surt, Colonel Qaddafi’s hometown and his lone remaining outpost of support, as rebel troops moved into position for an assault, news agencies reported.
The alliance said its planes struck a command bunker and a convoy of 29 military vehicles in Surt, where Colonel Qaddafi’s tribe, the Qaddafa, remain fiercely loyal to the ousted dictator. The rebel leadership had hoped the city would surrender peacefully, but tribal leaders have rejected all entreaties, The Associated Press reported.
In a setback for the rebel leadership, the African Union, meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, refused to recognize the Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya and called instead for a government that includes Qaddafi-era officials, Reuters reported.
Over the years, Colonel Qaddafi has spread Libya’s oil wealth liberally among numerous African nations, winning the loyalty of their leaders, who fear they will not receive the same largess under a new, more democratic government.
David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Tripoli, and Alan Cowell from Paris.
Thirty Gaddafi Fighters Found
Dead at Tripoli Camp
Peter Graff / Reuters
TRIPOLI (August 25, 2011) -- More than 30 men believed to be fighters loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have been killed at a military encampment in central Tripoli and at least two were bound with plastic handcuffs, indicating they had been executed.
A Reuters correspondent Thursday counted 30 bodies riddled with bullets in an area of the Libyan capital where there had been fighting between Gaddafi forces and rebels. Five of the dead were at a field hospital nearby, with one in an ambulance strapped to a gurney with an intravenous drip in his arm.
The encampment was strewn with Gaddafi paraphernalia -- caps and pictures of the Libyan leader -- and Gaddafi green flags flew nearby.
Some of the dead wore military uniforms while others wore civilian clothes. Some were African men. Gaddafi is known to have recruited soldiers from neighboring countries. Two of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
The incident took place at a traffic circle in an area of Tripoli that had been held by forces loyal to Gaddafi. The encampment was littered with abandoned food, weapons boxes and wrecked vehicles. Blankets had been placed over the dead.
Elsewhere in the city, a British medical worker said a hospital had received the bodies of 17 civilians believed to have been executed in recent days by government forces.
"Yesterday a truck arrived at the hospital with 17 dead bodies," Kirsty Campbell of the International Medical Corps told Reuters at Mitiga hospital. "These guys were rounded up 10 days ago. They were found in Bab al-Aziziya when the guys (rebel fighters) went in. These guys were shot in an execution there," she said. The wounds were not battlefield injuries, she said.
Rebel fighters overran the fortified Bab al-Aziziya complex, the center of Gaddafi's power, Tuesday. She said there had been reports of more bodies, but added: "I myself counted 17 last night."
Campbell said family members had identified the victims.
EXECUTION ALLEGATIONS ALARMING
U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said the allegations of summary executions were alarming.
"It is hard for us to confirm anything at this point, but incidents such as these will be looked into by the Commission of Inquiry on Libya which issued its first report in June and is still functioning," he told Reuters.
"We urge all those in positions of authority in Libya, including field commanders, to take active steps to ensure that no crimes, or acts of revenge, are committed."
Libya's ambassador in Geneva, Ibrahim Al-Dredi, told Reuters he did not believe the rebels had carried out executions and anyone responsible should be put on trial.
"The leadership of the NTC is asking those fighters not to kill anybody, not to harm anybody, unless it's a combat situation," he said. "I don't think they will kill prisoners."
One man at the Mitiga hospital had both arms and one leg bandaged. Doctors said he was one of the survivors. Usama al-Hadi Mansur, 36, a clerk, said he had been arrested some days before and was in a cell with 23 other men at the Gharour prison, on the edge of the Bab al-Aziziya compound.
He said that Tuesday, as the rebels entered the capital, the prison guards ordered all the inmates to lie on the ground and opened fire on them. He said he was hit. "Allah gave me a chance to survive."
He said that he lay on the ground for several minutes and heard the sound of breathing coming from the one other man in the cell who had survived. He said he and the other survivor then waited several hours before the rebels arrived and released them.
Doctors showed Reuters 15 dead bodies in the yard behind the Mitiga hospital. They were riddled with bullets, and were bloated, indicated they had been left in the heat for some time.
One of the doctors at the hospital, Hizar Ali, said the prison guards had thrown an explosive device into the prison cell before opening fire, but the survivor who spoke to Reuters did not confirm this.
Amnesty International said Thursday a delegation it had sent to Libya received reports of abuses by both sides in the conflict, including of rebels detaining and beating black African migrants suspected of being mercenaries.
A Reuters team saw a rebel pick-up truck in Tripoli with three dark-skinned men in the back. One of them told Reuters he was from Nigeria. He sobbed as he said: "I do not know Gaddafi, I do not know Gaddafi, I am only here for working."
Rebels are suspicious of people from sub-Saharan Africa because some have fought on the side of Gaddafi's forces.
Reporting by Peter Graff, additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Matthew Jones.
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