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Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Sirte Massacres: 10 in the Water Basin, 13+ Others

November 3, 2011
last edits Nov. 10

<< The Sirte Massacres

The Report: October 24
When Human Rights Watch reported on October 24 on the Mahari Hotel massacre, they also mentioned other recent finds in Sirte:
At a separate site in Sirte, Human Rights Watch saw the badly decomposed bodies of 10 people who had apparently also been executed. The bodies had been dumped in a water reservoir in District 2 of the city. The identity of the victims was unknown, and it was not possible to establish whether Gaddafi forces or anti-Gaddafi fighters were responsible. From the state of decomposition of the bodies, it appears they were killed prior to October 12.

Medical officials in Sirte told Human Rights Watch that pro-Gaddafi forces had carried out executions in the city. They said that medical teams and anti-Gaddafi fighters found at least 23 bodies, their hands bound, between October 15 and October 20.
The report on the Mahari hotel victims, lodged by HRW's emergencies director, Peter Bouckaert, inserted a dynamic all but missing so far in this war: something nearing blame for a more-obvious than usual rebel mass killing. This time it was of 53 people, many of them identified as known Gaddafi loyalists, so it would be hard to deny.

However, the fact that col. Gaddafi himself had just been killed four days before the report, shifting the notions of who's in power and who needs to have human rights issues to exert pressure with, may or may not be a coincidence. It certainly hasn't caused a complete turn-around, or there wouldn't be so much ambiguity over who killed the further 23.

These further discoveries mentioned on the side are all from between October 15 and 20, straddling the line of Gaddafi's murder, and after the big batches of executed people reported on the 12th, and the one of those reported again slightly altered on the 14th. Again what's been found is victims of loyalist crimes, the TNC forces say.

As for dumping bodies in this way, it's been done before once that I know of, and that was by the rebel forces. Back in July in the Nafusah Mountains, just outside Qawalish, NYT writer C.J. Chivers found five loyalist soldiers, one of them beheaded, dumped in a water basin, as he called it. The rebels he asked about it were pretty sure Gaddafi's people had done it, but Chivers, and everyone else, remained unconvinced.

The Video: November 1
The place Chivers made his discovery was a kind of covered well used to irrigate surrounding crops. This time, the container of water seems to be a different type, much larger, open, and much less clean. That's according to a video reader Peet73 tipped me off to, that is probably of this same scene. It was just uploaded on the 1st, by user Libyansons, with a given record date of October 25th.

جثت ملقاه في مياه الصرف الصحي | سرت [Bodies dumped in the sewage | Sirte]
[Arabic description, Google translate direct: Find seven bodies dumped in the sewage water in Sirte 25/10/2011. This Aljtaat been shot by mercenaries and slaves Misurata NATO and the Middle. It was throw it in the septic tank to hide their crime]

Only three bodies are shown in Libyansons' video, although it seems by the title seven were found, or need to be found to make all ten bodies in this pool. Or it's a coincidence and these are 3/7 other bodies in another water basin. I kind of doubt that last, but it's possible. The bodies are floating near each other on the top of a rather large, open pool of green, stagnant water. They're all apparently adult males, wearing civilian clothes, floating face-down in a drift corner with assorted debris.
Bodies 1 and 2 (as I've numbered them) visible here, left-to-right.
The feet of body three are visible between them.
Although not apparently bound, at least not hands-behind-the-back, it would seem they were executed (see below). They also seem badly decomposed, like the ones Bouckaert saw, but not uniformly. They display a strange mix of flesh types, from intact to gone, with a dissipating state between - pale, waterlogged tissue sloughing off of their bodies in chunks and strands.

Now for a closer look at each of the three. It's a little late for the warning, but these images are gruesome.

Body 1
This is quite possibly a black male, if that is in fact the skin of his behind visible beneath his pulled-down pants. This is a frequently-used sign of disrespect for the dead, often seen in other Islamist killings, but also possibly caused by accident.

He's wearing a light blue short-sleeved shirt, with a red stripe along the top - an indistinct, asymmetrical... blood-stain? Another bad sign is his missing head right above that, just a lump of soggy neck tissue, it looks like, remains.

Further, the victim's lower arms (at least the right one) seem to be missing, or at least submerged. Also severed? Nah... I can credit an arm falling off entirely from whatever caused the dissipation of tissue we see here. Besides microbes, if any fish live in this water, even small nibbling ones, they could finally chew through the last tendon, or just leave the forearm skeletonized so that it sinks beneath for lack of floating fat. But for a head to do the same requires severing the spinal cord, and I can't see any normal fish doing that in such short order. I think this man was decapitated before being tossed in here.

Was he bound before? Unlikely. I presume his arms have been in the water this whole time to fall apart like that. If they were behind his back, out in the air and sun, they'd still be as intact as his behind.

Body 2
This body is not seen very close up, so it's less clear, but this victim as well seems to have been beheaded. There is what seems to be another lump of neck tissue, if larger, swelling out into the water. He wears an orange shirt, perhaps long-sleeved with yellow stripes down the arm (?) and dark pants.

His skin tone does seem to be lighter than that of body one, and it's possible his flesh is more intact. His left arm (presuming face-down) is intact to the visible hand, with the right arm perhaps gone below the elbow, or just submerged. His left foot may be visible, with no shoe. Being barefoot is also consistent with the kind of Islamist executions plaguing Libya since February.

Body 3
This victim seems to still have a head, although it looks strange and set at an angle, up against some floating debris. In fact, even with enhancements, as shown at left, I can't decide for sure what's up with his head.

The upper body here is roughly skeletonized, which I find surprising. All ribs beneath the torn shirt are visible, whereas the other two bodies still have most flesh intact. That below the waterline is just now falling apart, and that above is not even close. One wonders how many days before the others this one was killed, and whether they were all dumped here at the same time.

His arms are again not tied behind his back. They're apparently beneath the surface or even gone. His lower body is clad in tight jeans, and seems intact,down to the visible left foot. It's again not shod, but apparently still covered in flesh, and so reveals that his skin tone, weeks after death and soaking anyway, is rather pale.

On the Missing Heads and Rot Disparity
It's the beheadings in this case, not bound hands, that makes the floating victims appear executed. And that clue, unlike the other, is widely-associated with Islamist executions, of the type some rebel fighters have engaged in repreatedly in the past. One wonders why Mr. Bouckaert failed to mention this, only saying vaguely they "had apparently also been executed." I agree, I just believe in explaining how I came to decide certain things.

And further, if I were going to say something like "from the state of decomposition of the bodies, it appears they were killed prior to October 12," I'd want to have consistent evidence. That would suggest it was "Gaddafi thugs"who hacked the heads of these people and tossed them into the drink before rebels took that area (which I presume is understood to have happened on the 12th). Only the one skeletonized body I can see makes me think more than two weeks has passed since his death. The other two look considerably fresher. I'd wonder from that if an old body, or a few, were added to allow that impression to be made, and I'd refuse to take the opportunity. I'd go with how long the freshest looking ones seem to have been there.

More coming, on anything else that comes up with these or the additional 13 lumped with them...

Thanks to reader Peet 73, we have a likely location. It's more Hay al-Dollar really than District Two, but close enough. Note that the site of this pool is only about 200 meters north of the spot where reader Petri Krohn has identified as the site of the 10 bodies burnt, run over, and burnt again. From the angle of sunlight, I'd say the video under scrutiny here was filmed around mid-day at the pool's northeast corner.

As for the significance of this location, recall Bouckeart's assessment  of the age of the bodies: "it appears they were killed prior to October 12." This is the date the rebels claimed control of this general area and first allowed the media in, to see the bodies just south of this spot but not these.

But according to rebel claims passed on by media graphics, the area was under their control by the 10th of October at the latest, and perhaps even earlier than the 4th. Lining up a Wikipedia graphic of rebel holdings in Sirte as of October 10 (pink), and from the UK Guardian the western front on October 4 (white zig-zag line), with the area in question in a green square, we see it's solidly in their zone.


  1. I have nothing to add but I think you are doing a sterling job documenting this. Hope you are doing ok because you're going through some rough images. Good work. Take care.

  2. Hey, fine job and really fast.

    It wasn't magic to find the video though its title is in arabic and it only had a few viewers yet. I'm registered as friend of libyasons at YouTube so I got the information about his upload on my start page.

    I will send him the link to this story and ask him if he can give any further Information about the victims, the site and the circumstances of the killings.

    I don't know if he speaks english, but I'll try and add it here if applicable.

  3. Demon Lily: Yeah, maybe I'm a little broken, but I'm able to just be mechanistic, like a forensic pathologist with no training or detailed exams, and none of the smell... that might do me in. Incredible sadness is just under the surface, but it rarely bubbles up to overwhelm me.

    Anyway, it's a good skill to help break down and revive the horror most people block by apparently squinting at (or never seeing) these images. Dead people... maybe sleeping... probably rebel fighters... that darn Gaddafi! See that's really broken, in a way that's encouraged more war crimes.

  4. I,too, have to commend you on the important work you are doing. I would love to see what you could come up with if you were actually on the ground in Libya. Keep up the good work!

    I have heard from friends in Libya that rebels actually murdered the injured in Sirte Hospital. There are witnesses, but who is going to speak out now.... no one. They are just happy to be alive. The truth will eventually all come out no matter how they try (or not) to hide it.

  5. :)

    Appreciations-it's nice. It can be tough being so far ahead of the curve, but it's good to see there are others that can keep up or even get far ahead of me. Millions are stuck miles back there, but they can be dragged, a little, with the right words and facts, I keep hoping...

    As for the hospital, I wouldn't doubt it one bit, after seeing the job they did at the Abu Salim trauma hospital, leaving 75 corpses visible and the whole staff just vanished.

    Many of the dead at the Mahari hotel and in Gaddafi's convoy had been previously injured and probably had to leave the hospital before it was taken, only to be killed elsewhere. Anyone left behind would likewise be seen fit for nothing more than finishing off. I hear 35 dead were found there, all kidnapped NTC sympathizers...

    Anyway, if you can get me any third-hand specifics, without getting anyone killed or compromised, I'd be happy to put that into the post I'd do on the hospital dead if I had anything but vague suspicions.

  6. I got an answer from ibyansons, but he can't add any further information:

    we appreciate your work and your humanity and actully I dont know the names of the victims, I just knew they were civilians from Sirte, killed by rebels hand. And about the number they were many, human rights watch just mentioned some of many crimes has happen since the rebels entred the city.
    I will try to send you more videos about crimes which happend in Sirte."

    So nothing new here by the moment. I guess you have already found the the location so I will better not try to impress with that.

  7. Right on. I imagine things are getting somewhat cleaned-up by now, but then I've over-estimated the rebels' carefulness before.

    I actually looked for a giant open pool in district two but didn't see one. Perhaps I just missed it, or it was covered then and looks like a random low building. No surrounding clues at all, except faintly from the reflection. Perhaps a question they/he could answer?

  8. Hey, I thought it's a walkover because I saw a pool like that in the video on the first view. Was it a lucky punch or is there anything I didn't consider when I presumed this place here?

    Perhaps it's not directly within district 2 - but surely not far away. What do you think?

  9. That's apossible fit, and very close to the spot Petri identified for another rebel body dump. I was looking further north and west, around the Mahari hotel. Shoulda looked near the other spot. Not enough to say that's it, but totally consistent. Not a huge point, but will add that eventually.

  10. It is interesting that the pool is just some 150 meters north of the pile of bodies by Muttassim's house found on October 12. Rebels claimed to have taken the pool area no later than October 10.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. P.S. – Why would Human Rights Watch say "October 12", and not "more than two weeks ago." A precise date would call for precise analysis.

    More likely it is because the bodies were found in the area that was *documented* to be in rebel control on October 12. (Could well have been captured earlier but the press got there on Oct 12.) The spot north of Muttassim's house house fits this timeline.

  13. Delayed comment, submitting now. :)

    Peet: I came across dismissive above. More than likely, this is the pool, and I'm about to add it.

    Petri: I'm wondering now if this is supposed to be near Mutassim's house or not. There's another fit, surrounded by trees, just east of the one at an angle. But allreports fail to specify a link between these 10 and the 42 in four sites at Mutassim's place.

    But whatever the locale, you nailed it, and indeed, this is just up the road. Same area, just as controlled by Oct.10th or even Oct.4th per rebel claims in media graphics. Bodies found in that pool Oct. 24, issue about Oct. 12 date.

    It's awkward sometimes watching Bouckaert squirm under the weight of trying to use the shit the rebels hand him to fulfill the HRW requirements in the field - find a "humanitarian" reason to justify whatever intervention the West at large has already decided on.

  14. You're absolutely right about Bouckaert. This man knew well what was going on all the time. It's a shame.

    I just came across another video uploaded by THEFREEMANDZ the 30th of August that hadn't many western viewers yet. It seems to show dumped bodies, most black, somewhere in Tripolis. At least two of the victims are handcuffed (at 0:37 and 0:41).

  15. Disturbing videoالقبض على قناص من قبل ثوار بن عاشور و ثوار كبتية شهداء فى سرت - uploaded 20 October, but from some time before, I guess. User Aiman4445 also shows a large rebel convoy at Sirte Airport elsewhere.
    An alleged sniper is hauled off, someone shouts in English My God, My God! at about 0.51. Guns pointed at someone's head on top of a vehicle at the very beginning. Looks rather non-staged.... wonder what happened to the guy bundled into the car?
    what is going on?

  16. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=396782520331904&set=a.380468181963338.101192.354410127902477&type=1&theater


    killing civilians&throw them in Wastewaterجثث مدنيين بالصرف الصحي سرت


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