Last update Jan. 6, 2012
<< The Sirte Massacres
"We only want the head of Muammar Gaddafi. We don't want any death, any blood.We are fighting our brothers. But they are defending him. I don't know what's happened. We want him and they said no. So what's our choice? Kill them."
- young rebel fighter Rajab al Babor, Global Post video,Oct.21, 1:50 mark
This post will examine the fate of many people accompanying Muammar Gaddafion his last voyage, some hundred or so of whom wound up dead on the battlefield, with some of those clearly executed. How many, where, under what circumstances? How many were taken alive at that time and killed later anyways (aside from Col. Gaddafi himself, his son Mutassim, and defense minister Jabr)?
These are some of the people young Mr. Babor spoke of, their fellow Libyans who couldn't be reasoned with, who were actually defending the nation's leader against a foreign-created insurgency, who would only fight to the death. Their hands were forced into this fratricide. But here we see that in many cases, the despised loyalists were taken alive, rendered harmless, perhaps preached to a bit, and then killed without mercy.
A 21 October tweet from James W. Foley:
@jfoleyjourno: 95 bodies on field from Gaddafi's last battle #sirte, most killed by nato or in battle, 6 or so clearly executedThe NATO presumption is from the bodies being burnt, but there are some questions about that. Others say the number of clear executions is a bit higher. As passed on by Human Rights Investigations:
Human Rights Watch visited the site where Muammar Gaddafi was captured, and found the remains of at least 95 people who had apparently died that day. The vast majority had apparently died in the fighting and NATO strikes prior to Gaddafi’s capture, but between six and ten of the dead appear to have been executed at the site with gunshot wounds to the head and body.Dan Rivers for CNN said HRW had found "at least ten" captives, three of them shown, "shot at point blank range."
As Reuters reported:
Fallen electricity cables partially covered the entrance to the drainage pipes and the bodies of three men, apparently Gaddafi bodyguards lay at the entrance to one end, one in shorts probably due to a bandaged wound on his leg.Update December 5:
Four more bodies lay at the other end of the pipes. All black men, one had his brains blown out, another man had been decapitated, his dreadlocked head lying beside his torso.
Joyous government fighters fired their weapons in the air, shouted "Allahu Akbar" and posed for pictures.
In the comments below, details start to emerge about more captives, taken alive on the 20th (that is, NOT part of the few initial executions) who were later killed and then dumped, along with hundreds of other "unidentified" dead in the Sirte mass grave. Libya S.O.S. passed on a posting on Facebook of many of the decaying faces photographed before burial. Among the early internees, number 113 has been identified as Haj Faraj al Husona, seen alive in this video. That's an undeniable match, if I can't vouch for the ID (top image below). In a rare update at Libya S.O.S., another captive from the video was linked, by an e-mail, to victim #81 and given as Abdullah Hasnawi, born 1993 (lower image).
One other idea worth exploring here, perhaps, is the possibility that the strike that burnt this convoy was something other than a NATO missile attack. That will kill many people in cruel ways, but it's not really avoidable once the firing starts. But the possibility has been mentioned that they were massacred by hand, then the scene simply burned to make it seem an air strike happened. Until I examine the scene closer, I have no solid opinion, but it is odd that these cars struck as they tried to drive away seem to have all been parked in a field when they were burned. Maybe I just missed the explanation for that.
Updates Dec. 8/9:
Captor: The English-Speaker
Some fascinating developments in comments. Thanks to readers Tawergha and Felix, another video shows these same captives being ordered onto a flatbed truck prior to the execution of some (or all?) of them. A possible American tells them in English to "go, go, go," "move, move," and "come on, get back."
Another (or the same) person, light-skinned and bearded, is trying to smoke a Greek-made "American Legend" cigarette. It's not clear what these clues mean, but there's some speculation below, perhaps linking back to the Gaddafi convoy and an odd figure with a unique story of his involvement in the doomed ("betrayed") extraction operation.
One important question raised by contributor Petri Krohn - were the captives even really part of the convoy, or just random locals misattributed? Either way, they were apparently slaughtered after their capture.
Captive: The Guy in the Cast
And reader Tawergha brings an original video (youtube link) for another execution proven by video, which I hadn't mentioned in the post body yet. This the man with the "bandaged wound,"actually a full cast, and he was alive, harmless, little flight risk, then dead in the same spot:
Notes, by myself and others, for now in comments. It's getting to be an amazing discussion,far better than this post is now.
Update Dec 28: New Videos
Showing the purported first moments after the NATO strike on this parked arrangement of vehicles, as rebels first walked in and assessed the scene. This video will offer new details, though I'm not versed enough in those available to say what's new here. There are a lot of horrible types of dead on display here, but one pattern strikes me. We hear that the vehicles were hit, but many of the charred and sometimes limbless, headless, etc. bodies are laying several feet away from the vehicles we're to presume they were killed in. Burning people will sometimes get out and run, further away than these. Theones who couldn't have gotten out... The semi-random piling of many of the bodies could be the effect of rebels having pulled them out for processing. It does also resemble how they arrange people they've executed on site.
And a while back Russia Today ran a great piece largely based on these photo-video match-ups, showing some I hadn't seen before. On Youtube.
To the extent I can read the numbers, which is total, they offer guesses I haven't verified for victims #85, 87 (in the video still frame above), 99 (an old-ish man), and 81 (mentioned above, 19-year-old Abdullah Hasnawi). The faces are blurred in the video, but that's why I have my own copies. I'll make graphics to compare and let others do the same. The numerical lumping is a good clue - captured together, killed together, numbered and buried together. That's the zone to look for more matches in.