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Soldiers Who Refused
To credit rebel and mainstream reports, bad ends tended to befall Libyan soldier who tried to defect and join "the people" during their 2011 uprising, or who refused alleged orders to slaughter innocents. It goes back to the dawn of the Civil War in late February and 22 soldiers, of a total of 130 we heard from a "Human Rights Group", shot dead in east Libya, for refusing some evil orders.
The rebels weren't there, so how they knew that's what happened was unclear until clarified by the fact the executed men were last seen in a rebel video (quickly pulled and shown by no rebel supporters now). They were shown around February 22 held by rebel militants, being sentenced to death by them for daring to oppose them. They were blaming the regime to cover for their own atrocity. That explains the strange omniscience.
The Khamis Brigade shed massacre is another bestial crime of the regime rebels know every last thing about. And again, when the order came down to kill the roughly 120-150 prisoners, some soldiers, the alleged survivors say, wouldn't do it and were added to the kill pile.
The knowledge seems far less magical in this case - the defection of soldiers was allegedly witnessed by many people slated for death alongside them. These, unlike the doomed objectors, managed to escape and tell the tale. There seem to at the very least about 30 of these people known currently, and perhaps 60 or more. BBC's Orla Guerin spoke to one of them, elderly alleged survivor Fathallah Abdullah al-Ashter, who managed to run out the doors unharmed and hide under a truck. He spoke of losing two of his sons, and likely a third, although he remained hopeful Ali had lived.
Outside the warehouse he greeted another survivor, Ali Hamouda, with a sombre handshake. Ali was uninjured but told us his cousin was among the dead.No other witness recalls that precursor to the massacre, by the way. Munir El-Goula spoke to ITN News back on August 25 (need to update elsewhere), at least a day before any other media reports on this incident. Though his recall of the space and the number of people is different, he survived what must be the same (alleged) massacre. Soldiers were among the dead, he agreed, but they weren't seated in the middle and pulled out early. Rather, they were standing outside as guards, and then only pushed in at the last minute and killed with the rest. He said, as translated:
Both men said some of Col Gaddafi's own troops were not spared. They too were imprisoned in the warehouse, presumably for not following orders.
"The soldiers were in the middle," Ali said. "They were sitting on blankets. They took them outside first. After that we heard gunshots. Maybe they executed them. Then they start to shoot us."
When they opened the gate, mercenaries came and pushed the soldiers back into the jail. They shot an old man in the leg. I didn’t think they would kill us, but the mercenaries entered the jail and shot the prisoners in the legs. One took a grenade and threw it in....Reporter Lindsey Hilsum added "[Munir] says, somehow, he escaped, but believes 20 soldiers and more than 100 prisoners were killed." This forces the point that among those who dozens who claimed to have leapt over walls and the like, and survived to speak to the media, all are simple civilians. None of these trained soldiers I'm aware of managed to escaped alive. Hamouda's story explains that better, by having the professionals taken out one at a time, presumably gaurded by several men, and killed first. but I still don't buy his story either.
French paper Libération spoke with witness Dr. Salem Rajab (aka See-Through Salem)
And these three bodies outside, one of which has its feet in a noose? The doctor, while Moustapha said nothing: "These are three soldiers who refused to participate in the implementation and the mercenary," he said, mimicking the scene, "killed them on the spot."The Dead Outside the Shed
in and around the compound, eight of them black men, like Rebel/NTC militias often execute on the spot. The three most widely seen, the ones Salem was asked about, were right next to the shed, bound, executed, and laying under blankets. Two of these are seen at left, from RT Arabic video, with the third just a few feet away to the right.
These three are all between blankets and three mattresses someone was apparently sleeping on. A bag of toiletries hangs next to one of them (the bottom of it visible in the image here). It's outside the jail area, so not likely where a prisoner was sleeping. The victims wear what might be long underwear, but with camouflage uniforms laid over them. An officer's cap, green flags, and army trousers are all strewn nearby (some of that visible here). The one in the foreground was bound by the feet, at any rate, and not shot running. The other, closer views show, has extra wrist damage and decay suggesting his wrists were bound at death and until shortly before the photos were taken (see the link above for such details).
These mattress victims were noted by Clemens Höges, writing for Der Spiegel English, among a total of four exterior corpses he saw.
The four dead men outside the warehouse whose corpses were not burned appear to have been powerfully built, dark-skinned men, as far as can be judged after days in the Libyan heat. It is possible that they were soldiers who wanted to desert or did not want to be involved in the massacre. [Local witness] Ali Boukhatwa confirmed this version of events and also said that the soldiers had been tortured.They probably had been, in fact. Two other onetime guards now under Rebel captivity, and perhaps subjected to torture or various threats, have claimed roles in this mass killing that completely contradict each other. One, held in az Zawiyah (near Tripoli) spoke in September to Physicians for Human Rights, who gave him the pseudonym "Laskhar." The other, held in Misrata, was paraded before AFP with his confession in late January. His name was given as Ibrahim Sadeq Khalifa (see link for details).
Both soldiers do agree on the number of guards (five) that actually carried out the killing. Khalifa says he was one of the five, while Laskhar says he wasn't even at the base when it happened, but helped with the mop-up after. He adds that three of the five executioners were Libyans, and two were Tuaregs (black foreign mercenaries).
But they disagree on the date, a rather important feature. Laskhar, like most sources, says it happened August 23, while Khalifa, like a few others, say it was the 22nd. And they disagree on when the fire was set. Laskhar says it was only days later when the bodies were burnt, following failed attempts to dig a mass grave (one was seen, fully dug, however,and the rebels say it wasn't them who did it). Khalifa, in contrast, says the other guards poured gasoline/petrol over the living prisoners, apparently after shooting them, and he himself tossed in a few grenades, apparently incendiary ones, which ignited them. "We then locked the garage and left," he told AFP. "We burnt them alive.”
Neither one mentions anything about locking up or killing other guards, and explain the bodies outside only as presumptive prisoners, Rebular Libyan civilian, who escaped but were gunned down anyway. One source was told that a captured soldier (perhaps one of these two or another one, and again possibly tortured or coerced), had been asked and said the corpses were captives, and not even captive Gaddafi soldiers. The caption beneath this Louafi Larbi photo of the mattress victims says:
A rebel fighter walks near the bodies of fellow rebels at the Khamis 32 military encampment in southern Tripoli August 28, 2011. The bodies were recognised as that belonging to rebel fighters by a man who was a former soldier at the camp.So maybe it was "freedom fighters," as usual the black ones primarily, that the evil loyalists tortured and killed after all. Whatever the case, some of the dead somewhere around there must have been soldiers, according to the rebel witnesses.
Promises of Escape/An Order From the Top
Kim Sengupta for the Independent, Sept. 10, reported the account of police officer-turned rebel militant Amr Dau Algala (apparently the brother of Munir el-Goula/Algala). He's one of the few escapees to mention fire, indirectly. "I started running," he said. "I looked back, but there was too much smoke, I could not see my brother [Abdullah]."
Mr. Algala is also one of those who reported a connection between the coming massacre and the Brigade's namesake and grand overseer, Khamis Gaddafi.
Mr Algala recalled that one day the guards announced that Khamis al-Gaddafi was arriving himself and the prisoners would be free. "People got very excited and the guards started laughing. They said that being 'free' of this place meant that we will all be killed. We did not know whether to believe them or not."The plan was being spoken of on August 22, then, if the shooting happened on the 23rd, in ... the morning? Both Laskhar and Khalifa, like most other witnesses, have the incident occurring at evening, at sunset (7:44), after the call to evening prayer, at about 7:30 or 8:00, and so on. It's one of the few generally consistent points, in fact, more agreed than the actual day (which makes sense, really).
The threat proved to be real the following morning when the murders began.
But he also has Khamis mentioned, as the origin of this order, first issued on the 23rd, according to guard "Laskhar". He says his superior Hamza got a call from his own boss, Mansour, who in turn reported directly to Khamis Gaddafi. (Several survivors also can cite col. Mansour as the chief there). After the call, which Laskhar sat in for, he was told, as the report says, "Mansour had ordered all detainees at the compound be killed and that the operation begin that night. Laskhar further explained that these orders had come directly from Khamis Gaddafi." Didn't see that coming, did you?
In that version it came by phone, although the witness says Khamis was there personally as well that day. Alleged escapee Mustafa Abdullah el-Hitri/Atiri, also happened to see Khamis visit the walled prison yard personally and, it seems, issue the order right there. In his account to Anthony Loyd, published in the Australian, he said:
"Khamis Gaddafi was here just before the killings [...] I saw him standing in the middle of the yard with his security detail and two commanders as I was taken from a prison van and marched into the barn. He was giving orders to his men."A Khamis call or not, supposed survivor Abdullatti Musbah Haleem told the Daily Telegraph about the elborate ruse their promised freedom became:
"On Tuesday we were very excited to hear the news of the fall of Bab al-Aziziyah [Gadhafi's compound]. The guards told us that it was all over and we were going to go home that day. One of the guards was from Zliten and I knew him. He said he would unlock the door and all we had to do was undo the latch and then we could escape.A couple of other witnesses hint at this same kind of guard trickery, but most others are split between saying the doors were just left open as the guards went to re-load, they all rushed the doors at the same time while opened but guarded, a prisoner kicked the doors open, or they bypassed the locked doors and ran out the hole in the wall.
"We undid the door. The first of us went out and were met with a hail of bullets. We ran back inside the hangar but they followed us and threw in six hand grenades. Then they started spraying us randomly with gunfire...
And there are other versions yet (three), where guards opened the doors for them, but in an earnest effort to help.
Mutually Exclusive Hero Guards: Abdul Razak and Mustafa
Mustafa Abdullah el-Hitri, mentioned above, cites one heroic guard he calls Abdul Razak, to whom owed his life, allegedly. As reported in the Australian:
"Abdul Razak was one of them but he seemed sickened by the killing and told us to flee," Mustafa recounted at the scene, where he had gone to look for other survivors. "He opened the barn doors and told anyone still alive to run for it."Until recently, el-Hitri was the only witness I knew of who recalled Razak's brave gesture and his name. Then I found young Tahir el-BahBah, who escaped with two of his three cousins, the only other witness to cite this same guard, who shared the name with one of his cousins (Abdul Razak el-BahBah). A goofy auto-translation from Arabic of his account to a survivor's group:
On Tuesday, 2011.8.23 at half past five pm came to us one of the volunteers and his name is Abdul Razak Baroni said we should flee from here half an hour after it was released to you [unlocked], but are only five minutes came up came up volunteers and they fired on usA third massacre time is now on the record. Morning, about 5:35 pm, and the conventional time of sunset. Strangely, he has el-Hitri's hero guard trying to help in a different manner entirely from what el-Hitri describes. The original version has Razak successfully letting the few survivors flee after the shooting. El-BahBah's has him trying to free them prior to the planned massacre, but the shooting started anyway five minutes after, which they then had to flee from on their own.
This is the exact type of help offered by another alleged guard, named "Mustafa" (no last name given). It might be relevant that this character has the same first name as Abdul Razak's originator - Mustafa el-Hitri. This story was straight away confirmed by two people, both speaking to the same researchers with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) for their December report on the massacre.
PHR witness "Mohammed" mentions Mustafa, who tried to help, but the captives goofed it up and triggered their own killing.
Just before the evening call to prayer, the guard named Mustafa whispered through an opening of the warehouse to the group that in 30 minutes he would be back to unlock the main door so they could escape. He also told the group to wait 30 minutes after he had unlocked it before they fled. The detainees started to celebrate, chanting “God is great.” [Allahu Akbar] Mohammad believed the noise may have alerted the other soldiers. One of them (name withheld) found the door unlocked and yelled, “Who opened the coffin?"And then the killing began. Beofre this, if Mustafa kept his word (follow the bolded parts), they must have been chanting for thirty minutes straight before the door was finally unlocked and then swiftly found that way. He should have unlocked it and told them to be quiet at the same time. This is a strange account.
Omar confirms this basic idea of Mustafa's failed attempt to help, and also relates a longer historywith the man. The outsider guard brought extra food and water and bits of info to Omar during his three-month captivity. But then, Omar says, Mustafa fellunder suspicion of insufficient evil and was ordered switched out. Omar, a businessman, “offered Mustafa a bribe of LYD 200,000 to free him,” PHR report. Nobly, he turned down the money, but promised to alert and release them if he heard anyone hatching plans to kill them all. But so long as it was just daily torture, no dice.
That's a strange deal, but he delivered, in Omar's story. He gives the wrong day, corroborating "confessed mass-murderer" Khalifa, while contradicting Mohammed's account of a noisy response:
On the night of 22 August, Mustafa came to the window before evening prayer with some food and water and said to Omar, “You will either escape or die.” As he had earlier promised, Mustafa left the door of the warehouse unlocked for them, so they could escape later that night. The detainees began organizing into groups of about ten to escape quietly in groups, but somehow the guards discovered that the door was unlocked and began to attack the group with grenades and automatic weapons.Is this all the same guard, perhaps named Mustafa Abdul Razak Baroni? Or two hero guards, one remembered by some, the other by others? If two, which of the two tried to open the doors early, and which one only after the shooting? Is either one of these just some sort of bizarre memory error, from shock or whatever?
For Those Inclined to Believe the Witnesses...
...which ones then?
Were the killed soldiers dragged out first as Hamouda says, or pushed-in last per el-Goula? Were the dead bodies outside soldiers as they seemed and as Boukhatwa believed, or rebels, as a captive soldier wound up saying? Was the flesh-consuming fire started the same time as the killing, like Mohammed Bashir and soldier Khlaifa said, burning people alive, or was it only to hide the facts days later as A.I. Bashir, Laskhar, and logic suggest? Did the guards find the door shut but unlocked and commence the killing inside the shed, as the PHR witnesses said? Or did they shoot the first ones to step out through the lock they opened themselves? Or did they skip all that, simply open up and start killing people as several other witnesses said?
Or, perhaps... none of the above?
How many false memories on key features of a life-changing event can we responsibly accept? If eyewitness accounts are really this random, why are they ever called on as evidence at all? If they aren't usually this random, what's different here?