Thursday, 25 August 2011

Libya: both sides accused of mass executions

Troops on both sides of the Libyan conflict have been accused of taking part in mass executions following the discovery of scores of bodies across Tripoli.

Tripoli's central hospital
Medical staff reported a series of grim discoveries throughout the city Photo: HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY
Colonel Gaddafi’s supporters have been implicated in the assassination of a large number of political opponents, while the bodies of at least 30 loyalists were found bound and shot close to the centre of the capital.
As the battle for Tripoli continued, medical staff reported a series of grim discoveries throughout the city, pointing at vicious acts of revenge on both sides of the conflict.
Political prisoners were among those reportedly killed on the orders of Gaddafi as rebel forces advanced on Tripoli over the weekend.
A British medical worker based at a hospital in the capital reported seeing the bodies of 17 men who had been shot at close range.
It is thought the men were political activists who were rounded up and arrested in recent weeks and held close to Gaddafi’s Bab-al-Azizia compound.
Medics, who have examined the bodies believe the men were hauled from their cells and summarily executed as the rebel troops closed in on the area.
Kirsty Campbell of the International Medical Corps said the injuries did not look like battle wounds.
She said: “Yesterday a truck arrived at the hospital with 17 dead bodies. These guys were rounded up 10 days ago. They were found in Bab al-Azizia when the guys (rebel fighters) went in. These guys were shot in an execution there.”
Usama al-Hadi Mansur, a 36-year-old a clerk, who claimed to have escaped the attacks said he had been in a cell with 23 other men when guards had entered and opened fire.
He said he had only survived because he had been hit and had pretended to be dead.
Elsewhere there were unconfirmed reports of as many as 140 bodies being found at one of Gaddafi’s notorious prisons.
A spokesman for an opposition group said the bodies had been burnt but showed signs of having been killed at close quarters possibly by a grenade.
But the bodies of pro-Gaddafi troops, who appeared to have been bound with plastic handcuffs before being shot, have also been discovered in Tripoli.
One eyewitness described seeing the bodies of at least 30 loyalist troops riddled with bullets, lying in a pile close to where there had previously been intense fighting.
According to reports the some of the dead men were wearing military uniforms, while others were dressed in civilian clothing.
Some of the dead did not appear to be native Libyans, prompting suggestions that they could have been African mercenaries, hired by Gaddafi following the uprising in February.
Meanwhile medical staff in the city warned of an impending humanitarian disaster due to the sheer number of casualties.
One British doctor working at a hospital in Tripoli said the situation was getting out of control.
He said: “It does get to you after a while. You are sometimes working long, long hours when casualties turn up.
“Yesterday I visited the main hospital in Tripoli and there were just countless, countless casualties. Every minute ambulances were turning up with people literally with blood pouring out of their heads. I went into the hospital into the emergency department and there was a person with a bullet that had gone through his face, it was quite gruesome.
“There were many, many casualties. The hospital I was at yesterday there were at least 40 or 50 doctors working in the emergency unit and they couldn’t cope with the number of casualties. If they passed away they didn’t have the facilities to move them out of the way so they simply piled them up at the side of the emergency department.”

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