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Monday, October 31, 2011

The Sirte Massacres: 30 Wrapped Bodies in District Two

October 31, 2011

<< The Sirte Massacres

A Puncture-Prone Environment
It was announced on October 12 that a further 25 or maybe 30 bodies - as usual, victims of Gaddafi loyalists - had been found by NTC fighters in an area of Sirte that had just come under their control. There'd already been a cluster of 42 bodies announced the same day, and now these in another portion of "neighborhood (district) two," the densely-packed northwestern segment of Sirte's urban core, where loyalist resistance from house to house had proven the stiffest.

The "former rebels" who'd taken much of Sirte already were calling this the last loyalist holdout neighborhood, and were pounding it fiercely. The image at right is from the UK Daily Mail, October 14. (View it full-size in a new window for fuller appreciation of the texture of destruction - the red soccer ball is a nice touch).

These were buildings that loyalist fighters and civilians and civilian-fighters had until recently been - or stil were - hiding within. there must be quite a few dead loyalists punctured, blasted, charred, and mangled inside some of them.

And as for those captured alive, Diego Marin of TeleSur reported earlier on the 12th a story that "is worrying us" - a NTC fighter's admission that they would be executed on the spot. He repeated the news that if anyone in the city was found with weapons "there is no doubt that he will be executed." If found without a gun, who knows? There were thousands of people of both descriptions hemmed with nowhere to run.

More Victims: Killed When, Found Where?
By this time, fighters of both sides were wearing both military andcivilian gear, with the tables mostly turned to the opposite of the war's beginning. Other than civilian clothes tending to suggest Gaddafi loyalists, there's little to set the sides apart aside from somewhat more facial hair on one side, and somewhat more black people on the other.

Therefore, if one runs across executed people in this fractured hell, it might be hard to know just who they were and what happened to them. Especially if no one can show or even tell us if the victims were black or light-skinned, in civilian or military clothes, etc. With the vague reports so far, we're flying blind on these details.

But NTC forces are apparently imbued with special powers that allow them to cut through all the doubt and ambiguity to know things others couldn't know. Reuters reported on Wednesday, October 12, of the bodies just then discovered in the latest swathe of District two to be cleared.
SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - The corpses of 25 people wrapped in plastic sheets were found on Wednesday in the city of Sirte by government forces, who accused militias fighting for deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi of execution-style killings.

A Reuters team counted 25 corpses in plastic bags in a southern area [sic] of Sirte called "Neighbourhood 2". Five corpses shown to the team had their hands tied behind their backs and gunshot wounds to the head. They wore civilian clothes.

A commander with the National Transitional Council (NTC) said the corpses had been there for at least five days.
Why the reporters were  not shown the other 20 bodies is, perhaps like the plastic sheets/bags around them, not clear.

If "the corpses had been there for at least five days,"as they were told, that would have them killed on Friday the 7th at the latest. There was no earliest, just a date after which it couldn't have happened. Rebels had taken this area sometime in the previous three days. The Cleveland Plain Dealer wire service, Oct. 12, heard the same from NTC commander Salem al Fitouri. “There are about 25 innocent people with their hands tied. There is no humanity. It’s sad." He said this standing next to the bodies, "which he said had been there for at least five days."

But as suggested by an analysis run by both Libyan Free Press and Nochienparteibuch, the date might be being fudged.
However, when the Guardian – another NATO mouthpiece – reported on the same corpses a couple of hours later, the story changed in significant details:

The already angry mood towards the loyalists hardened with the discovery, in three locations in the city, of 30 captured men who had been cuffed and executed. According to government (editor: meaning TNC here) commanders the men had been killed on Tuesday [Oct 11].
It’s pretty clear that the Guardian wants to tell it’s readers that the crime was committed by “loyalists.” However, the Guardian forgot to tell it’s readers where the crime was committed and just said “three locations in the city.” But the Guardian reported now that the crime of the summary execution was committed just yesterday.

So what does this look like? Reuters reported that the crime was committed five days ago, because the location where the corpses were found was captured a couple of days ago by TNC forces. But in the evening it didn’t add up because the corpses were fresh. So the Guardian told they were fresh, but didn’t report where the corpses were found. The Guardian did so to be sure that readers couldn’t draw the obvious conclusion that this is a crime of the TNC forces, just as Telesur reported that they announced they would commit the crime.
And the Telegraph (Oct 12, 10:55PM) again helps clarify these 25/30 are probably (though not surely) the same, taking the Reuters timeline, and the Guardian's higher number of dead and vagueness on locale:
As the front advanced, reporters were shown evidence of the execution of captured revolutionary fighters by retreating loyalists. The several-days-old bodies of 30 males, some just boys, bound and shot, were found across three locations.
The part about age is one rare clue. The TNC forces have the upper hand and little reason to use child soldiers. There are endless shell-games one can play saying "these were rebel kids taken from here or here, held prisoner, then killed right before we moved in." Such things are possible. But there are - were - also boys and young men in Sirte. Some of them might well have taken up arms to defend their city and their way of life. If they were caught, one expects, they'd be executed.

Note also that the number is higher with the later reports from the Guardian and the Telegraph. This could be just a different estimate, or could show that five more dead had been discovered in the interim. I'd like to see the bodies to check the level of decay and any other clues that can be seen, but to my knowledge no images of them, wrapped or not, are available. The Reuters report does have a photo attached of a partially-wrapped and well-decayed body surrounded by workers, but even the caption clarifies this is a corpse exhumed from a mass grave in Tripoli (already covered here).

Why Wrapped?
Further, I wonder why these execution victims, unlike others, were wrapped up in plastic, and how thoroughly? That's time-consuming work in a war zone. Who did that here, and why? The loyalists were running from shells and AA gun fire, likely hungry, thirsty, injured, and tired. The rebels TNC fighters just didn't likely givea damn and had much else to do. Ususally they leave their victims to rot completely uncovered, even de-pantsed, confident the world will overlook their obvious authorship, and confident of their ability to blame Gaddafi for the horrible smell. Wrapping the dead shows a certain respect they don't normally want to give the villains in their narratives. Why should that be any different here?

I have no solid answer, but two guesses as to why the bodies were wrapped:

1) To conceal clues about the dead (from their race of those they executed to the horrific state of the battle dead), and/or to disguise them as loyalist executions for simple propaganda value.

2) Since wrapping slows the advance of decay, it might have been done to try and explain why execution victims five-days-dead looked so fresh. Again, they don't usually do this, even when they've argued in the past "oh those? They were here when we got here. Here's the story..." But there's a first time for everything.

1 comment:

  1. Al Dollar on 12.10.2011




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