Libyan rebels on Saturday pledged to take Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown by force,
while Tripoli residents struggled with dwindling supplies.
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more evidence emerged of summary killings during the battle for the capital, as
well as reports of hundreds of wounded people abandoned in hospitals as medical
crews fled fighting in the city.
A correspondent for Britain’s Sky News
said he had counted 53 bodies left in a burned-out warehouse, where they were
apparently executed last week.
“It is a scene of mass murder,” Stuart
Ramsay said at the scene, quoting witnesses as saying 150 people were killed
there last Tuesday and Wednesday as rebel fighters fought pro- Gaddafi forces. A
local told Sky the victims were mostly civilians and had been killed by
Reports of cold-blooded killings by both sides have
surfaced in the past few days, darkening the atmosphere in a city where many had
greeted Gaddafi’s fall with joy. In one hospital, wounded patients lay on bare
mattresses in bloodsoaked bandages amid a stench of blood and sweat. None was on
an intravenous drip, although many had lost blood.
At the capital’s Abu
Salim hospital, dozens of decomposing bodies still lay in and around the
building after it was abandoned by medical staff during fighting. It was not
clear how they had died.
Five bloated corpses lay on trolleys at the
entrance to the emergency department, while 25 lay in the garden, wrapped in
rugs and sprinkled with lime in a vain attempt to keep down the smell. Surgical
masks and gloves were scattered on the ground. Ambulances were still parked in
front of the hospital.
Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown – rebels
hunting him say the war will not end until the 69-year-old is captured or
killed. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebel National Transitional Council,
told reporters in Benghazi: “We have no factual report about the whereabouts of
Gaddafi and his sons.”
The NTC, which has told its fighters not to carry
out revenge killings, is trying to assert its authority and restore order in
Tripoli, but its top officials have yet to move there from their Benghazi
headquarters in the East.
Rebel commanders are still negotiating with
Gaddafi loyalists to try to persuade them to surrender control over the coastal
city of Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, Abdel Jalil said.
Libya is effectively
cut in two by pro-Gaddafi forces holding territory stretching southward from
Sirte, 450 kilometers east of the capital, deep into the desert.
commander said forces advancing from the east had reached the edge of Bin Jawad,
a town about 140 km.
from Sirte. “We are waiting for the people in Sirte
to come out and talk, but we’ve got no answer up to now. I’ve been waiting for
three days,” the commander said, adding that Sirte must be taken eventually, by
force or peaceful means.
With rebel forces approaching from east and
west, Gaddafiloyalists in Sirte could retreat into the desert and try to reach Sabha, another
Gaddafi stronghold far to the South. “If they pull south to Sabha, we’ll follow
them. We’re determined to clear the whole country,” the commander
The NTC and the Western powers that backed rebel forces with a
five-month bombing campaign are acutely aware of the need to prevent Libya
collapsing into the kind of chaos that plagued Iraq for years after the US-led
invasion of 2003.
Life remains far from normal in Tripoli, whose two
million people are grappling with a breakdown in basic services, even as many of
them celebrate the overthrow of a hated leader.
“There are widespread
shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies, particularly in the Nafusa
Mountains and Tripoli,” UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon said in New
Tripoli’s supply problems have worsened, even though NTC Chairman
Abdel Jalil said on Thursday his forces had discovered huge stockpiles of food
and medicine in the capital that would eliminate any shortfalls.
spokesman said diesel and cooking gas cargoes were on the way and that talks had
taken place at the Zawiyah refinery to discuss ways to supply western Libya with
gas and restart the refinery.
In Tripoli, stinking garbage was piled high
in the streets. In some districts, people set it on fire to stave off disease.
Electricity and running water were scarce. Residents carried containers to
mosques, which often have wells, hoping to fill up. Outside one mosque, a sign
read: “No water left.”
In Abu Salim, bullet casings littered a square.
About 50 charred cars dotted the neighborhood.
The rebel council is
pressing foreign powers to release Libyan funds frozen abroad to help it restore
security, provide services and revive the economy after six months of
The United States and South Africa struck a deal on Thursday to
allow the release of $1.5 billion in frozen Libya funds for humanitarian aid and
other civilian needs. But Gaddafi’s long-time allies in Africa offered him a
grain of comfort on Friday by refusing to follow Arab and Western powers in
recognizing the NTC as the legal government.
South African President
Jacob Zuma, a vocal advocate for Gaddafi, said the African Union could have
prevented deaths in Libya if it had been given the chance. “We still believe
that had the AU been allowed space to work, heavy loss of life would have been
averted,” he said in a statement a day after chairing an AU meeting in Addis
Late on Saturday, the rebel oil firm AGOCO said all five of
Libya’s refineries were offline due to a lack of crude oil production and damage
to facilities, leaving rebel forces wholly reliant on fuel imports. “No
refineries are working. They can’t get crude oil. Some are in bad shape,” a