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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Tripoli Massacres: 900 Bodies in Two Suburban Mass Graves

October 8, 2011
last update October 11, 2011

<< The Tripoli Massacres

The (Estimated) Death Toll Soars
Since rebel forces followedthepath of NATO'sbombs and entered Tripoli in late August, a rash of brutal and "mysterious" killings has plagued the city. Bodies at first left rotting in the open, stuffedinto a hoslital-cum-slaughterhouse, and then in mass graves appearing weekly. I estimate collectively at least 400 known victims of the takeover have turned up by the end of September, with many more expected.

On October 5, it was announced, two more mass grave sites had been found around Tripoli, adding between them an estimated 900 victims to the growing Tripoli massacres. One grave in the Gargarish area held about 200, they said, while another in Tajoura was believed to hold 700. Al Arabiya quoted Naji al-Issawi, the rabble "security chief" for Tripoli, as telling a press conference that “witness testimony has allowed us to uncover two mass graves of victims of the old regime." [1] As usual, I doubt the rebel estimate and assessment of the back-story.

The Victims
A follow-up report from al Arabiya, dated October 6, added this on the victims:
locals residents say they are possibly corpses that were found on the streets after deadly clashes that occurred at the end of August this year.
Some of the perished were Qaddafi loyalist soldiers killed in action, while others appeared to have been executed.
Does "others" mean other bodies, or other bodies of loyalist soldiers? The distinction is important and not spelled-out.

Among the available sources, Xinhuanet (China) has a unique source that gave details other reports lack. Among them was this on the victims:
They were victims of clashes in the capital, especially in Bab Azizya military compound and the Abu Salim neighborhood, between fighters of the now ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) and forces loyal to fallen leader Muammar Gaddafi in late August as the NTC sought to take control of the capital, a source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

They included the soldiers on both sides as well as some civilians, the source said, adding that identification has been hard.
TVNZ (New Zealand) added that:
Journalists at the Gargaresh grave said that bodies seen had not died long ago judging by the lack of decomposition, AFP reported.
One of the corpses displayed today was largely decomposed and appeared to be clad in military fatigues and boots.
A pathologist told journalists at Gargaresh that at least two of the bodies had bullet wounds and around 20 had fractured skulls, reported AFP.
Most or all of those will likely be head shots, once the bullet holes have been found on closer study. If there is closer study. According to TVNZ, the same Issawi who's certain the victims were all Gaddafi's doing, "said officials planned to dig up more of the site in the Gargarish district and start identifying the remains." [4] This decision was made despite the warning from Human Rights Watch that this will make it impossible (somehow) to accurately identify the victims or possibly their killers. Whenever they defy this and dig up bodies, suspect they have a reason for discarding clues to leave as little as possible to contradict what some strange people are about to say about their disappeared, anti-Gaddafi relatives...

The Gargarish grave
Al Arabiya's first report said:
A mass grave in Gargaresh, on the coast some seven kilometers (four miles) from the center of Tripoli, contained the bodies of about 200 people, Issawi said, thought to have died in the battles surrounding the rebel assault that ousted Muammar Qaddafi. [1]
A video report they posted the following day shows the first opening into an underground chamber, lined with cinder blocks, roofed over, and covered in earth. It's inside the walled grounds of a cemetery, but an open row, not the section with regular graves.

As the dig progresses, one body wrapped in white is hoisted out, with another visible inside. Two more bodies, pre-bagged in dark body bags and invisible within, are shown laid out near the trench. The rest remain unseen.

At right is the main emptied grave there - a single long trench that looks capable of holding perhaps 100 bodies, if packed in. In the near distance however is a second area of active digging, surrounded by spectators.

The Tajoura graves
A "second" grave site, announced the same day, but apparently found sometime after the first one, "contained an estimated 700" victims, al-Issawi said. [1] This doesn't seem to be a single site really, indicating one huge dump of bodies. Rather, it seems to be cluster of graves of varying sizes in Tajoura, a neighborhood on Tripoli's far east end. Tajoura was one of the centers of anti-Gaddafi activity in February, and reportedly the first area to fall into rebel hands, on August 20.

A Youtube video posted by Quatchi Canada shows no digging, and one body. This is shown below, enhanced a bit. This shirtless, apparently dark-skinned, person has clearly been dead for some weeks at least, possibly months from the look of it. his face is basically that of a skeleton now.

Al Arabiya described the one grave they saw as in "Birasta Milad, a rural area 10 kilometers (six miles) from the city center."  Quatchi Canada gives the locale of the corpse above as "Bir Al-Uosta, Tajura." Xinhuanet added details on the body dispersal, suggesting that nearly half of this huge number were in a single grave site, and the rest spread out over several:

Meanwhile, about another 700 were buried in several mass graves in Tajoura area in suburban Tripoli, said Naji al-Issawi, an official of the protection force. Some 300 were in "one hole" while the rest scattered in several graves, al-Issawi said. [3]
How they found the graves
The freshly worked soil across a large patch of ground, as we saw being undone at the Gagarish cemetery, might have been an adequate enough giveaway that something was beneath. But the NTC claims no clue about this or the other suburban mass graves until someone told them. Just who thatwas is key to how they'll play this case.

“Witness testimony” was the evidence. No further explanation, except that something led them to believe these bodies were "victims of the old regime." This suggests loyalist captives were credited with the info, which usually "proves" their guilt. To accept that as evident, however, one must ignore the possibility of a coerced or fictitious confession used to launder the rebels' own intelligence on mass grave locales.

Or was their source simply the "cemetery official" who was able to tell the media where the bodies had come in from? "An official from the cemetery said the corpses had been collected from streets and hospitals following the rebel assault on the Libyan capital in late August" TVNZ reported. [4] When did they "discover" him and his knowledge? Only just now in October?

According to a CCTV report, it was neither captives, nor cemetery workers, nor theior own forces who likely made the graves that tipped them off. Rather "authorities say they found the site" in Gargerish "after receiving tips from residents who claimed they saw trucks bringing the bodies to the site." Now whose trucks would those be?

[1] "NTC discovers two mass graves containing as many as 900 bodies near Tripoli." Al Arabiya English. October 5, 2011. http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/10/05/170384.html
[2] Another Mass Grave Discovered in Tripoli. Al Arabiya English. October 6, 2011.
[3] "Graves burying 900 unveiled in Libyan capital." Xinhuanet. October 5, 2011. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-10/06/c_131175854.htm
[4] "Libya militia claims mass grave found." TVNZ. October 6, 2011. http://tvnz.co.nz/world-news/libya-militia-claims-mass-grave-found-4449002
[5] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTPp2SZPr7Q


  1. I didn't know where to fit this in, so a comment seemed best. Incidentally:
    Alleged mercenary killed in Gargarish, posted Sept.24

  2. There's another view here of the digging in the same apparently mature cemetery filmed by Al Arabiya at Tajoura, and uploaded by 1VSMRK the same day,although labelled 700 bodies in a Mass Grave In Tripoli (1), NATO Crimes In Libya (rather than 200 bodies) The same 3 white coated people. They don't seem to find anything. All very dramatic. The guy in the foreground doesn't seem to need a face mask. And the same shifty crew of diggers (lots of scraping,no bodies), seem to feature in the Quatchi Canada films (no digging one body). Much Ado About Nothing.

  3. This China News CCTV newsreel Video uploaded by emmaomo2011 on October 5 (from about 1:50) shows similar "digging" footage to Al Arabiya, and is described as in Gargarish District of Tripoli. The commentator adds that
    "Authorities say they found the site in Tripoli after receiving tips from residents who claimed they saw trucks bringing the bodies to the site" (allegedly, numbers not specified, site being what appears to be a cemetery with headstones)

  4. The 1VSMRK video (his huge non-1account recently terminated) is exactly the same, I think. The CCTV detail is worth adding. Thanks.

    As for the numbers, they could be exaggerated, but that would be stupid. Anyone can see these would be victims dumped by the rebels after they took control. They tend to respect their own and get proper burials, but not the enemy. So chances are they're mostly rebel victims. That's not something you want to exaggerate. They're cocky and heavy-handed with the blaming, but in this case, that opening salvo of calling them "victims of the old regime" is maybe just a formality, and won't hold. The number will hopefully be accurately taken down, and might well be about what's estimated.

    I'm curious where the bodies are from. The one source said Abu Salim and Bab al Aziziyah. The victims will be largely black, and were taken by truck to distant areas and dumped. To complicate recognition by locals maybe? This re-locating the dead might also bear on the possible planting of older bodies at Bab alAziziyah (see "slashing and dumping at the roundabout"), while the newer ones were taken elsewhere.

    Then again, I don't know. Will come back to it.

  5. Reuters reported on Saturday 27 August 2011 Libyans count deadly cost of battle for Tripoli that;

    In the Tajoura district of the capital, local people prepared a mass grave for the bodies of 22 African men who appeared to have been recruited to fight for Gaddafi. One of the dead had his hands tied behind his back.

    "The rebels asked them to surrender but they refused," said resident Haitham Mohammed Khat'ei.

    "Residents of the neighbourhood decided to bury them in accordance with Islamic law," he told Reuters

    The German press picked this up, but the British newspapers seemed to ignore it. The Irish Times of 29 August,Irish-Libyan rebel leader says securing Tripoli a six-week task by Mark Fitzgerald briefly mentioned it, in between quotes from the Dublin based deputy leader of the Tripoli Military Council Mahdi al-Harati
    "Mr Harati’s brigade is the largest of the rebel units that swept into Tripoli more than a week ago. It contains many expatriate Libyans, including several from Ireland. Harati’s Irish-born brother-in-law Hosam al-Najjair,is the brigade’s head of security."

    Tajoura had reporedly fallen to the rebels, and QatchiCanada showed footage of rebels carrying off huge quantites of weapons out of a store in Tajoura on the 27th

  6. The arabic report of Reuters' merely calls the witness at Tajoura Haitham Mohammed, or هيثم محمد.

    Interestingly, Reuters shortly afterwards interviews Haitham Mohammed again,
    "In the port city of Misrata, scene of heavy fighting earlier in the conflict, security forces were holding 332 former Gadafy fighters in a school, where the captives sat on mattresses in the classrooms, some reading the Koran.

    There was no evidence the men had been mistreated.

    "These are Gadafy soldiers who surrendered in battles around Misrata and Zlitan," said senior warder Haitham Mohammed. "We will eventually take them to court."

    Some prisoners told Reuters, in the presence of the warder, that they had been tricked into fighting for Col Gadafy.

    "We were told we were fighting foreigners, al-Qaeda, so we fought to liberate Misrata but when we came here we were surprised," said one, named Ali Sadiq Hamuda."
    , as reported to the Irish Times, 30 August 2011. and not picked up in the UK.

    Zohra Bensemra photographed the alleged burial of the 22 Africans (well, one of them) for Reuters.

  7. Actually, Luke Harding reported from the school in Tajoura on 28 August: Evidence emerges of Gaddafi's bloody revenge in final hours of war quoting Adnan Marwan, a dentist turned doctor (as ever). Harding neatly dovetails this into a nicely slanted item on the shed massacre in Ghargour, uncritically reporting Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch's North Africa director.

  8. ITN Source has a video of the Tajoura dump of 22 bodies, pro-Gaddafi fighters, allegedly. LIBYA: Residents bury bodies of pro-Gaddafi fighters found on beach dated 28 August.
    Residents of the coastal town of Tajura, east of Tripoli, on Saturday (August 27) buried 22 bodies of pro-Gaddafi fighters, as a clean-up operation began to stop the spread of disease and move on from recent fighting.
    "The dead bodies are from pro-Gaddafi brigades killed during a fight with Misrata rebels at al-Romman gate. There are nearly 22 dead people from the brigades. Residents are collecting them and burying them," said volunteer Haytham.
    [i.e. Haitham Mohammed Khat'ei]
    Hundreds of pro-Gaddafi fighters are believed to have been killed during the past few weeks after rebels advanced from Misrata and Zintan to gain control of the capital.


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