Conflict & Justice

Amid Libya battle, mass killings in Sirte


Some appeared to have been killed execution-style, their hands bound.


Tracey Shelton

SIRTE, Libya — As fighters for the transitional government advanced into inner Sirte today 42 bodies — beaten, bound and executed – were found on what a local man identified as the property of Gaddafi’s son Moutism.

Hours later, Moutism himself was captured and transported to Benghazi, sparking celebrations across the country.

The bodies were discovered in four locations in the fields behind Moutism’s home. Two groups lay along a concrete fence, appearing as if they had been lined up and executed. Another group lay scattered in a field among cattle. Rebel fighters held their noses against the smell, and looked at the bodies with anger, sadness and disgust. 

“There are 42 bodies,” said volunteer medic Nabeel Alghoail, as he checked the bodies from the first location with a team of four. “All have been shot many times. They are all civilians.”

In another area, the bodies still lay in the open as bullets flew overhead. The fighting remained fierce until evening, allowing no safe access to remove them. All were men and appeared to be aged between 20 and 40. They were bound at the wrists with plastic ties.

Yusef Haddaga was among the group who discovered the bodies.

“We were moving through at around 2 p.m. when we found the bodies lying here like this,” he said.

Haddaga said he recognized one of the men as an engineer from Misrata. Others said they believed the men to be prisoners captured by Gaddafi troops several months before, but no positive identification has been made at this time.

Sirte locals say Moutism Gaddafi has been speaking publically within Sirte since the fall of Tripoli, calling for all to take up arms against the revolutionaries and handing out weapons to families.

Dr Hesham Alhooni, a pediatric surgeon from Tripoli, said a further estimated 35 bodies were also found at the Ibm Sena Hospital in Sirte.

“They were not the bodies of patients. They looked like rebel fighters,” said Alhooni, who has been treating patients still trapped inside the hospital for the past two days. “We found them in a closed off ward. Some were tied, some not.”

On Friday, a Gaddafi loyalist that was captured by revolutionary troops confirmed that rebel prisoners were being held in the hospital in a secret prison.

Alhooni said these men may have been executed some time ago. There had also been many bodies found inside homes within the area, he added. These too had been executed with their hands tied behind their backs.

Alhooni described the situation inside the hospital as miserable with about 55 patients remaining inside.

“The building itself has been almost destroyed. There is no ICU, no theater, no wards,” he said. “There are also bodies of patients, even a small baby, who died before we were able to get access to the building because there was no one to treat them.”

Urgent cases have now been transferred for treatment in Tripoli by the Red Cross.

A team of 20 doctors have arrived from Tripoli to treat the remaining patients.

Meanwhile, the battle for what remains of the city became messy when troops moving in from three sides began firing on each other.

The enemy seemed to have vanished as friendly fire flew within inches over the heads of the three battalions entering Sirte from the center. After several heated hours, they began to coordinate. The fight resumed, with the three fronts converging on a small area believed to contain the remnants of what was rumored to be a force of thousands.

During the conflict, 75 were injured and 6 killed.