Khadafy loyalists accused of atrocities
Arbitrary shooting of civilians cited
TRIPOLI, Libya - Retreating loyalists of Moammar Khadafy killed scores of detainees and arbitrarily shot civilians over the past week as rebel forces extended their control over the Libyan capital, survivors and a human rights group said yesterday.
In one case, Khadafy fighters opened fire and hurled grenades at more than 120 civilians huddling in a hangar used as a makeshift lockup near a military base, said Mabrouk Abdullah, 45, who escaped with a bullet wound in his side.
Some 50 charred corpses were still scattered across the hangar yesterday.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said the evidence it has collected so far “strongly suggests that Khadafy government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling.’’
The group said it has evidence indicating regime troops killed at least 17 detainees in another improvised lockup, a building of Libya’s internal security service, in the Gargur neighborhood of Tripoli. A doctor who examined the corpses said about half had been shot in the back of the head and that abrasions on ankles and wrists suggested they had been bound.
The group spoke to Osama al-Swayi, who had been detained there, along with 24 others.
On Aug. 21, detainees heard rebels advancing and shouting “Allahu Akbar!’’ or “God is great,’’ he told Human Rights Watch.
“We were so happy, and we knew we would be released soon,’’ he said. “Snipers were upstairs; then they came downstairs and started shooting. An old man [and another person] were shot outside our door. [The rest of us] ran out because they opened the door and said, ‘Quickly, quickly, go out.’ ’’
He said the soldiers told them to lie on the ground. He said he heard one soldier saying, “Just finish them off.’’ Four soldiers fired at the detainees.
The justice minister in the rebels’ interim government, Mohammed al-Alagi, said the allegations would be investigated and leaders of Khadafy’s military units put on trial.
So far, there have been no specific allegations of atrocities carried out by rebel fighters, though human rights groups are continuing to investigate some unsolved cases.
Associated Press reporters have witnessed several episodes of rebels mistreating detainees or sub-Saharan Africans suspected of being Khadafy’s hired guns. Earlier this week, rebels and their supporters did not help eight wounded men, presumably Khadafy fighters, who were stranded in a bombed-out fire station in Tripoli’s Abu Salim neighborhood, some pleading for water.
Najib Barakat, the health minister in the rebels’ interim government, said yesterday that he does not yet have a death toll for the weeklong battle for Tripoli. Hundreds have died and more bodies, some in advanced stages of decay, are still being retrieved from the streets.
In fighting late yesterday, pro-Khadafy elements fired Grad rockets at rebel forces gathering in the town of Nawfaliyah, near Khadafy’s home town of Surt, rebels said.
Rebels gave residents there 10 days to allow rebel forces in peacefully or face an assault. A rebel spokesman said many Khadafy loyalists have fled to Surt and are preparing for a fierce battle.
Also yesterday, the rebel government said it would not deport the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
New York senators asked the Libyan transitional government on Aug. 22 to hold Abdel-Baset al-Megrahi fully accountable for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people.
But Alagi, the justice minister, told journalists in Tripoli that the request by American senators had “no meaning’’ because Megrahi had already been tried and convicted.
“We will not hand over any Libyan citizen. It was Khadafy who handed over Libyan citizens,’’ he said, referring to the government’s decision to turn Megrahi over to a Scottish court for trial.
The Scottish government released Megrahi in 2009, believing he would soon die of cancer. He was greeted as a hero in his native Libya and met with Khadafy.