Lull in Libya Fight Reveals Atrocities by Rebels and Loyalists. War is brutal.

Published: August 26, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya — As the fighting died down in Tripoli on Friday, the scope and savagery of the violence during the near-week-long battle for control of the capital began to come into sharper focus, with both rebel and loyalist forces accused of atrocities.

Seven months of images from the fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Amnesty International said in a report based on eyewitness accounts from escaped prisoners, that it had evidence that forces loyal to Col.
Muammar el-Qaddafi killed rebels who had been held in custody in two camps. In one camp, it said, guards killed five detainees held in solitary confinement, and in another, they opened the gates, telling the rebels they were free to go, then tossed grenades and fired on the men as they attempted to run for freedom.

On Thursday, there were reports that the bullet-riddled bodies of more than 30 pro-Qaddafi fighters had been found at a military encampment in central Tripoli. At least two were bound with plastic handcuffs, suggesting that they had been executed, and five of the dead were found at a field hospital.

In a sign of the intensity of the fighting this week in the capital, dozens of bodies, many in advanced states of decomposition, were piled up in an abandoned hospital in the Abu Salim neighborhood, until Friday the preserve of the Qaddafi forces. Most of the fighters were darker skinned than most Libyans, a sign, rebels there said, that they may have been recruited from sub-Saharan Africa. The rebels have frequently accused the Qaddafi government of using mercenaries but have not offered convincing proof.

The fight to subdue the recalcitrant loyalist forces was expanded beyond Tripoli on Friday. NATO warplanes struck targets in the lone remaining outpost of support for Colonel Qaddafi, his home town of Surt, as rebel troops moved into position for an assault, news agencies reported.

The alliance said its planes struck a command bunker and a convoy of
29 military vehicles in Surt, where Colonel Qaddafi’s tribe, the Qaddafa, remain fiercely loyal to the ousted dictator. The rebel leadership had hoped the city would surrender peacefully, but tribal leaders have rejected all entreaties, The Associated Press reported.

On the diplomatic front, rebels said that they had begun to transfer their administration from Benghazi, the birthplace of the rebel uprising, to the capital, Tripol. A senior official of the movement on Friday renewed an appeal for the release of frozen Libyan assets, saying the insurgents had “dire needs” as they seek to supplant Colonel Qaddafi’s government.

Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, the official, Mahmoud Jibril, the de facto rebel prime minister, also said the rebels “need to collect weapons” that have flooded into Tripoli since they began their takeover of the capital last weekend, and wanted to build national police and military forces to restore order.

“This needs a lot of money,” he said.

“After all, our friends in the world all talk about immediate stability and security, which can be achieved if only we are delivered the necessary means — technical and financial assistance, some diverse support,” Mr. Jibril said. The rebel Transitional National Council, as the rebel leadership is known, “needs to prove its power by delivering the needs of Libyan people. Otherwise, there will be a legitimacy crisis,” he added.

His remarks followed a decision by the United Nations Security Council on Thursday to approve an immediate infusion of $1.5 billion in Qaddafi-regime assets that the United States seized last spring.

Mr. Jibril was speaking after cabinet members of the Transitional National Council appeared at a news conference in Tripoli on Thursday to announce that they were formally moving their operations from Benghazi to Tripoli. During an emotional address, the oil and finance minister, Ali Tarhouni, praised the rebel fighters, asked police officers to get back to work and called on Qaddafi loyalists to put down their arms and go home.

News reports on Friday said some of the most senior leaders of the fledgling government were still in Benghazi.

In a setback for the rebel leadership, the African Union meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, refused to recognize the Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya and called instead for a government that includes former Qaddafi-era officials, Reuters reported. Over the years, Colonel Qaddafi has spread Libya’s oil wealth liberally among numerous African nations, winning the loyalty of their leaders, who fear they will not receive the same largesse under a new, more democratic government.

For his part, Colonel Qaddafi, still at large and still refusing to surrender or acknowledge the rebel gains, taunted the rebels anew on Thursday with a speech carried over loyalist radio channels urging Libyans to cleanse Tripoli of the “rats, crusaders and unbelievers” — his favorite terms for the rebels and their Western allies.

In an odd development, a reporter for the Irish Times came up with documents at Colonel Qaddafi’s compound, Bab al-Aziziya, that seemed to show that the Libyan leader’s adopted daughter Hana, who was supposedly killed at the age of four in the United States strike on the compound in 1986, is actually alive and well and had been working as a doctor. The paper said it found a medical school examination of hers along with a certificate from an English language course in which she received an A.

Others have reported seeing a spacious and well appointed office at Tripoli Central Hospital that workers there claimed was Hana Qaddafi’s.

Kareem Fahim reported from Tripoli, Libya and Alan Cowell from Paris.
David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Tripoli, Libya.