There are a multitude of aspects to what's going on right now in Libya, Tripoli in particular - things I don't know well enough yet to speak on. But one aspect grabs my attention enough to start finding out about. A side-effect of the near-total liberation of the capitol is literally blood flowing in the streets from brutal mass killings. At least one journalist has captured some of the horror of it as armed butchers from one side or another massacre fighters and civilians alike in growing numbers all across the city. (thanks to Brian Souter for tipping me off to this story)
We seem to have little video of this just yet - can anyone recommend anything they see? Is youtube allowing them to be seen or not? Etc. Eventually, there may come some better understanding of what's happening, but for now, what I run across or have dropped to me on the Tripoli massacres of late August, probably September, and fall of 2011.
I start with one rather stark, and detailed, article by Hadeel al-Shalchi, AP, Aug 26: Fight 'the rats,' Gadhafi urges as rebels push on
(Associated Press writer Rami al-Shaheibi in Benghazi and Donna Bryson in Cairo contributed to this report.)
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The streets where rebel fighters bombarded snipers loyal to Moammar Gadhafi were strewn with bullet-ridden corpses from both sides Thursday. Streams of blood ran down the gutters and turned sewers red.
By sundown the rebels appeared to have won the battle for the Abu Salim neighborhood, next to Gadhafi's captured Tripoli compound [...] Outside his Bab al-Aziziya compound, which rebels captured Tuesday, there was another grim scene — one that suggested mass, execution-style killings of civilians.
About two dozen bodies — some with their hands bound by plastic ties and with bullet wounds to the head — lay scattered on grassy lots in an area where Gadhafi sympathizers had camped out for months.
The identities of the dead were unclear, but they were in all likelihood activists who had set up an impromptu tent city in solidarity with Gadhafi in defiance of the NATO bombing campaign.
Five or six bodies were in a tent erected on a roundabout that had served as a field clinic. One of the dead still had an IV in his arm, and another body was completely charred, its legs missing. The body of a doctor, in his green hospital gown, was found dumped in the canal.
There is a photo that runs with the story showing some of these victims laid across the grass. Mr. al-Shalchi writes that "it was unclear who was responsible for the killings." It used to be clear to most that the exterminator col. Gaddafi was responsible for all such things. But after the rebels have been caught slaughtering their captives time and again, with greater frequency in this final push to the capitol, the credibility isn't there. Even in this extreme situation, where Gaddafi is again calling for a slaughter of "rats," and some are taking him up on it - it doesn't look good when hands-bound people in civilian clothes, and apparently Gaddafi supporters - wind up strewn across neighborhoods the rebels just took.
The "Freedom Fighters" will say - and is saying - the regime planted their own victims - those who "wanted to defect," perhaps - in the rebels' paths just to frame them. That it would work so well is not to the rebels' credit. The story also mentions that "on Thursday they announced that their leadership was moving into the capital." Wow, Mr. Abdel Jalil will be so giddy. It was just days ago that he predicted the fight for Tripoli would be "a bloodbath," one he hoped to celebrate, at the scene of the crime, by the feast of Eid (August 30 this year).
More snapshots of freedom:
The [Abu Salim] neighborhood, where battles have raged for days, is thought to be the last major stronghold of regime brigades in Tripoli, though there has also been ongoing fighting around the airport. Many of the pro-Gadhafi forces in Abu Salim are believed to have fled his Bab al-Aziziya compound after rebels captured it Tuesday, and the neighborhood is among the few places in Tripoli where pro-Gadhafi graffiti has not been painted over.
Rebel fighters moved methodically through the neighborhood — some on foot, wearing shorts and carrying machine guns, and others in long lines of pickup trucks with weapons mounted on the back. They fired anti-aircraft guns and rockets, trying to clear buildings of Gadhafi defenders.
Some of the bodies in the streets were on fire. The rebels covered their own with blankets and left the bullet-riddled bodies of their foes exposed.
Civilians were in some of the buildings and caught up in the crossfire.
A mother ran out of one the buildings under siege, screaming: "My son needs first aid." Behind her, the building's glass windows were shattered and black smoked poured out of a burning apartment.
In Abu Salim, the hours-long barrage ended at sunset. Rebel fighters went door to door through largely deserted apartment buildings, occasionally dragging out suspected regime loyalists.
Some were dark-skinned men wearing cut-off camouflage and T-shirts. Their hands were tied behind their backs before they were driven away. The rebels have long claimed Gadhafi had been hiring mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa to bolster his army.
And finally, "Rebels say one of their key targets now is Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte," where stiff tribal resistance - that is, loyalist civilians, just as armed and civilian as the rebels but without an air force, are expected to put up a stiff fight. "I am appealing to the areas not yet liberated to join the revolution," an official told reporters in Benghazi. "There is no excuse for them not to join."
And, judging by the way things have gone in Misrata, Tawergha, Brega, Qawalish, Qawalish again, most of the Nafusah, az Zawiyah, Sabratha, etc., and now finally Tripoli, there's plenty at risk, as well as no damn excuse, for those people of Libya to refuse to surrender to this popular revolution
The good news - NATO's campaign to "avert a bloodbath in Benghazi" is finally bearing fruit. --- 12 in a grassy lot/roundabout
CNN has a HQ video with Dan Rivers reporting from the location of several bodies on the grass of a large island or small park area: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xkpvor_bodies-litter-gadhafi-compound_news#from=embed
This is probably the best resolution, but being CNN International video, it's unavailable in the United States. There are however re-postings on Youtube, including this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqmb7_Qe2I0
(Embedding disabled by request)
This has correspondent Dan Rivers from the grisly scene, possibly part of the same "about two dozen" victims described above. He counted twelve bodies in the area he was shown, hands bound behind, shot in the head. "It's a grim, grim scene, and just redolant of how fierce the fighting was here," he said. "We don't know what happened to these people, whether they were executed by the rebels [turning in their direction] or, or what." Then his drivers/minders, rifles out in their pickup, honk that it's time to go and they do quickly turn and go.
Another view, again skipping the embedding for consistency, has Rivers again, with a somewhat different report - presumably also from CNN - from the same scene (it's videotaped off the screen, with titles cut off). Here the camera pans in on the bodies more, and he relates that "the rebels say they were executed by Gaddafi's men. But these bodies appear to be black Africans. Black Africans make up a large portion of Gaddafi's army, raising questions about whether the men were executed by the rebels."
I should add that he can't say if they were Africans (foreigners) or black Libyans. And both groups make up a good part of his civilian supporters as well as fighters. They're clearly in civilian clothes, for whatever that's worth. I suspect if the victims Mr. al-Shalchi saw were black, he'd have said so, therefore, it's quite likely these are two separate massacres of apparent Gaddafi supporters "discovered" just after the rebels entered.
Meanwhile, the bodies of at least a dozen pro-Gaddafi fighters - two of whom had their hands tied behind their backs - were found on a roundabout in the centre of Tripoli.
There were reports that one body had an intravenous drip in the arm, and that others were badly burned.
17 in a Morgue
Al Jazeera English had a crew in Tripoli as well, but later, and they filmed 15 bodies in a morgue that's apparently under rebel control. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eTnEzQobBs Correspondent James Bays reported that there had been 17 bodies, but two were taken off by family. This is possibly the remains of the same massacre Rivers filmed, but the parts of the victims we see suggest primarily Arab, not black makeup.
As in that case, Bays says the rebels told him the dead were "political activists" who were staying near Gaddafi's compound, but they were rebel activists "who'd been arrested in the last few days and weeks, and they were being held" there. Until the attacks came. "When the opposition fighters started to enter the compound, we're told, they were killed." No investigators were on hand, but photos were taken of the bullet wounds to show "to an expert at a later stage."
So we have apparently two sets of slain activists. one claimed by the rebels as their own, and another called by the journalist al-Shalchi, with less obvious reason for bias, "in all likelihood activists ... in solidarity with Gadhafi." The precise basis for each claim isn't clear at the moment.
The BBC reported on what sounds like the same incident:
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes visited a hospital in the Mitiga district of Tripoli which had received the bodies of 17 rebel fighters.
Doctors said the group had been prisoners of Gaddafi troops in Tripoli and were tortured and killed as the rebels seized the capital earlier this week.
Dr Hoez Zaitan, a British medic working at the hospital, said about half the bodies had bullet wounds to the back of the head while others had disfiguring injuries to their limbs and hands.
He said the bodies had been examined for possible evidence to be used at a war crimes tribunal.
Okay - whoever killed them also tortured them. Great. We know some of the rebels' animals love to do this, and blame Gaddafi. Their victims don't usually wind up in Gaddafi's compound and surrounding neighborhoods, but the rebels also usually do not have access.
Dan Rivers mentioned the area was "awful to see and smell," and Mr. Bays also noted "the smell here is overpowering." In the August heat the stench of death may settle in quicker than I thought, but the bodies also to me look a bit old and stiff for a battle only what, two days duration? It's possible - how likely I don't know - that these people were killed some days prior to the attack on Bab al-Aziziya.
If so, it could still have been either by the regime as allleged, or by the rebels in one of their many atrocities on the long road to Tripoli (az Zawiyah is popping to mind). If a killing were to happen just before the rebels entered, it would be hard to prove with any precision they weren't killed just after they rolled in. But if the decay is advanced enough, it would make the perfect cover. So long as we all just presume the killing happened where the bodies were found.
If they had dead bodies to explain, too many mass graves in their wake already (only a few of them publicly known yet, in Qawalish and Tawergha), this could solve both problems and offer a further, twofold advantage. They might truck in a few dozen, a few hundred corpses, and basically plant them on Gaddafi, by simply tossing them about inside his compound.
That probably sounds pretty insane to most, but sadly, it's just not so. It makes entirely too much f***ing sense.
Instead, expect the "truth" to emerge that the regime was killing like crazy for a week or so before the rebel attack, to supress the masses who, it was noted, din't really rush in droves to support and fight with the invaders. All fears aside, the rebels must have actually interrupted a bloodbath in Tripoli and thus save countless lives!
The test might be the families who picked the dead up - the first two from the morgue and however many others. If they soon come out as Tripoli-based rebel sympathizers with convenient horror stories of their sons' abductions by Gaddafi thugs, presume they are post-facto adoptive parents, and insulting our intelligence with more shameless rebel myth-making, like the two families who let the same, single, clearly fake x-ray image be used to show their two separate children were shot by government snipers.
Up to 150: Abu Salim "Hospital"
This really upsetting report came in from Andrew Simmons for al Jazeera English. He should rightly be messed up for life from seeing the scene of Abu Salim hospital. Nineteen corpses were dumped outside, and inside - trails of dried blood, desolation, no staff from any party to be seen, and a thick stench of death. One room is simply stuffed full of the dead, perhaps twenty of them, on blood-smeared gurneys, covered in paper sheets - one black man at least has a naked leg sticking out. This I just feel needs to be embedded and seen right here:
The living are terrifying to see as well. One that sticks with you is a delerious, nearly naked black man laying at an odd angle on his bed, with "severe abdominal injuries," all but convulsing and, I almost hoped, very near death. No one was there to tend to him or the other, largely black, victims lined up in their hospital beds. One was a nice-looking Arab boy who had a bullet removed from his chest. Not to sound flippant, but was this his x-ray perchance?
The old staff was just gone - they fled, the rebels said, from the intense fighting. Surgeons in a war zone, likely hardcore loyalists in the last Gaddafi holdout area, just fleeing as their compatriots lay bleeding to death in the field or in their own care? Of course, the rebels might retort with the usual subtlety - the regime was wicked, its people weak and corrupt...
What ambulances continued delivering the wounded to a place with no doctors? What doctors fled the victims already there without calling someone? One possible explanation is murderers from one side or the other running the place, killing the doctors, dumping at least one in a (nearby?) canal, and dumping their dead and wounded victims there, left with no care to blame on the heartless loyalist doctors.
The one doctor they talk to of two present walks with great ease and confidence to be any loyalist, although his allegiance wasn't specified. He also does not rush around doing what he can to tend to so many in such need. Instead he acts, I thought, as if he's written them off anyway, and simply shows them to world, slowly, asking for their help to ease this horror that, quite clearly, was left to them by the fleeing regime.
He's clearly a rebel sympathizer at least, quite youthful to be much of a doctor, and possibly involved in the clearing out of the old staff. Sorry, I didn't take down his name, but it needs to be kept in consideration by those responsible for solving crimes like these.
And "more than 150" at Military Camps
The shooting of prisoners on the way out aspect of these alleged crimes is most chillingly expressed, so far, in at least one other story I've noticed. This is clearly a separate atrocity in Tripoli, ten times the scale and, presumably, at least 20 times the carnage: "Rebels charge Khadafy troops murdered 150 prisoners before fleeing" New York Post, Aug 26. They cite a very high commander involved in the physical campaign and perhaps the information war.
"There were instances of revenge in the last few hours before the fall of the regime," Abdel Nagib Mlegta, head of operations for the takeover of the capital, told AFP.
"In (Khadafy's compound) Bab al-Aziziya there was a mass murder. They killed more than 150 prisoners. The guards did it before running away. They threw hand grenades at them."
The Daily News also mentioned that "Amnesty International said earlier Friday it had uncovered evidence that forces loyal to Khadafy had killed "numerous" prisoners at two military camps in Tripoli, according to AFP." This I found right from the horse's mouth here - Libya: Detainees killed by al-Gaddafi loyalists | Amnesty International - and it seems to be the same (alleged) incident.
Amnesty International has uncovered evidence that forces loyal to Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi have killed numerous detainees being held at two military camps in Tripoli on 23 and 24 August.
Eyewitness testimony from escaped detainees described how loyalist troops used grenades and gunfire on scores of prisoners at one camp, while guards at the other camp shot dead five detainees they were holding in solitary confinement.
This particular crime isn't something I'd dismiss out of hand. If the besieged government held rebel insurgents - possibly violent, crazy ones - and couldn't take them with as they fled, they'd have a choice: let the rebels unlock and turn them loose on the city, or deprive the enemy of this weapon, like you would an ammunition depot. That makes a certain kind of sense, but it would be stupid as hell to just believe the rebels on any of this. It's just as possible they put another 150 of their victims or captives in there and blew them up just to frame Gaddafi and get rid of their own incriminating evidence. Rebel eyewitnesses, like the ones cited here, are often unreliable. I wouldn't be surprised if they used the same doe-eyed kid who did the escapee from Sodom schtick in Benghazi.
Investigations are called for. Seriously. Blood samples should be taken, forensic work on government vehicles and rebel ones, and the like - all science, all access. I don't trust what the BBC called "the existing Commission of Inquiry on Libya" that will naturally oversee an "inquiry."
These are terrible things happening, and I fear the world will simply not allow itself, at any cost, to blame this on anyone other than the crumbling regime. Someone has to take the blame, and how on Earth can our humanitarian intervention start to seem sane if we put the butchers of Abu Sallim and the rest on Tripoli's throne?
Do we have the courage to face up to the reality of the situation, whatever it may be? I fear not. I hope desperately to be proven wrong.
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