Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Khamis Brigade Shed Massacre: Believe Whom?

March 12/13 2012

The following, with minor changes, will be subsection 2.4, the beast, in the upcoming shed massacre report "A Question Mark Over Yarmouk: Re-Thinking the Khamis Brigade Shed Massacre." It's ready enough to share here, slightly rough, as our mostly-comprehensive analysis of why the witness record is so unreliable. This is general disagreements, with specific cases of the captive soldiers, and Dr. al Farjani, covered separately before and after this.

2.4.1: Broad Consensus on the Massacre of Aug. 22 or 23
The UN Human Rights Council, on March 2, 2012, released its advance unedited draft report on human rights violations in Libya up to that time. In it, they paid special attention to the massacre under study, finding “only 51”confirmed survivors from among the original prisoner population of, they found, 157. [UH p. 70] On examining the accounts of a number of witnesses, they decided “while there are small discrepancies […] the testimony from all parties who were at the warehouse at the time of the massacre is broadly consistent and corroborative.” [UH p. 71]

They do not share enough details to double-check the consistency of the witnesses they spoke to. But the CIWCL, in screening the dozens of accounts publicly available, finds major inconsistencies across the board on crucial details. When trying to believe the witnesses, a question arises frequently – which one do you believe when their accounts conflict with each other?

Hungarian journalist Al Ghaoui Hesna, who visited the site on August 29 and spoke to at least one witness, used a word that seems to quite apt in describing the record we see. Google translated, she said in part ”the reports have become a bit confusing and ellentmondóvá.” The last didn’t translate, but broken down, [ellent-mond-óvá] it says “contradictory and guarded” (mond óvá = “cautioned against saying”), twin signs of deception - or triple if added with “confusing.” [HB]

A curious feature of the widespread contradictions one finds is that hardly a single aberrant claim is unsupported. There is corroboration from other witnesses - usually one or two - on every distinct version of each detail. This resembles less the memories of a single event that it does people getting their stories straight in numerous small groups, but failing to coordinate between the groups. What emerges is a field of differing schools of thought about what they remember from that assault that nearly ended their lives. Interestingly, these groupings of agreement are frequently between those who spoke to the same reporters or investigators.

Both the date and the time of day of the killings are relatively uncontested, with a general consensus it occurred on August 23, just after sunset, which was 7:44 PM local time that day. [WC] [NO] Many reports say something roughly consistent with this: 8:00, after the evening call to prayer (sunset), and other things supportive of either true recall of an important event, or a well-coordinated cover story.

However, even this point of agreement has its exceptions. An August 22 massacre is supported by alleged escapee Bashir al-Sedik/Siddeq. He told the CBC’s reporter it happened “Monday night.” [CBC] Munir Massoud Own told CNN it happened “Monday.” [CNN3], PHR witness Omar specified the date August 22. [PHR p.31], and captive soldier I.S. Khalifa told AFP the same, August 22. [JD]. That’s four times corroborated, yet it can’t be true. It’s contradicted dozens of times.

The time of day is less challenged than the date, and that fact alone argues slightly in favor of the witnesses. The time of day, what the sun was doing, is visual, and more memorable than a number or name attached to the day. Therefore, even two contradictions stand out.

Amr Dau Algala (possibly a brother of Munir el Goula) spoke to Kim Sengupta for the Independent in September. He told her there were threats, the day before the killings, that the prisoners would be set free, and free meant killed. “The threat proved to be real the following morning when the murders began.” [KS]

17-year-old escapee TaherEl Bahbah, in an account translated from his Arabic language for the Facebook group Yarmouk Prison Massacre cited about 5:30pm for a warning to escape, followed by the massacre five minutes later. This is quite a distinct time from 7:45-8:00. [FB3]

Either of these could be simple errors, or aberrant reports of a different massacre time. But again, this is one of the strong points of agreement. We turn now to the remainder.

2.4.2: M. Bashir and the Hole in the Wall
52-year-old Mohammed Bashir is a particularly unreliable witness. Speaking to Martin Fricker of the UK Daily Mirror, he describes the shed wrong - a "container" with thin metal walls the detainees banged their fists against to demand water. They always needed more of that, as it was stifling hot in the container; he said men died from the heat. [MF]

In contrast, the photographic record shows these walls are lined with cinderblocks. These would make no banging noise when hit, wouldn't allow bullets, and shielded the inside from the sun's heat. Further, the decent ventilation all over the leaky shed would prevent heat build-up of the kind he cites.

When it came time to finally escape, he says he bypassed the door. “My friends and I ran through a hole in the wall and tried to escape across the compound.” [MF] This is a strange choice for someone who had just “run” through the only exit he could mean. In the northwest corner of the building is a small hole in the cinderblock walls that would allow human passage. It’s at least five feet off the ground, and leads out trough the window of the outer metal shell.

After climbing out, one would be just inches from the top of the compound’s low outer wall. If one drops from there to the ground on the right side, out that hole means out of the compound, free and on the way to safety (see graphic, next page).
Image: Satellite imagery from Google Maps [GM] lower left inset, Human Rights Watch [RW], right, Free Generation Movement [FGM]

Only if one jumped left would the continuing danger and death Bashir encountered. "I know at least three men did not make it and were shot in the back by the Gaddafi soldiers," he told the Mirror, as they ran south across the compound. [MF]

Another witness describes it more logically. The unnamed host of the video “What Happened at Yarmouk” explained to the crew “I was one of the people who crawled out through this opening. (pointing, from outside) We went out through this opening, went to the wall and jumped down.” [FGM 3:56] That sounds like his entire escape. There is no running around inside the walls under fire from the guards.

But how the hole came to be is contested. Physicians for Human Rights witness Omar, who escaped unharmed and feels he is the longest-serving among the prisoners there, has the hole existing and playing an important role throughout his saga. One prisoner, some days prior to the massacre, “attempted to escape by climbing through a hole in the warehouse wall,” PHR reported. “[B]ut guards immediately shot and killed him,” Omar said, and then left his body “to rot in the sun.” [PHR p.32]

Late on August 22, PHR reports, secret ally guard Mustafa "came to the window before evening prayer" with food, water, and a warning: “You will either escape or die.” Bypassing the useless "window," Mustafa then unlocked the shed doors "so they could escape later that night.” But they were discovered and the massacre commenced. [PHR p.26]

If the hole in the wall, clearly a useful exit, had existed for long, it’s reasonable to wonder why didn’t they escape through it before, on any quiet night when the guards outside had dozed off. It would take nothing more than to reach up to that five-foot ledge, unseen in the light-free shed, climb up and crouch on the ledge. After getting one’s bearings, hopefully undetected and still in shadow, one could dart onto the wall’s crest and over in a matter of seconds.

An answer why so many chose not to escape this simple way, why 150were still sitting there helplessly on the 23rd, comes from two witnesses. They explain, in conflicting ways, that the opening never existed before the massacre day. Abdulatti Musbah Haleem told Andrew Gilligan of the Daily Telegraph how “after the firing stopped he and about 30 others ran out through a hole they had made in the hangar wall.” [DT] Presumably, they had made it just then, inspired by the terror and desperation of such a total attack, using some sort of technical means they never tried before. They picked an excellent spot, if so.

The video host of ”What happened at Yarmouk” disagrees, saying the hole that saved his life was made by the loyalists, on accident. He said, per the video’s subtitles, it “was the only opening created, as a result of the shaking after the grenades were thrown in. This was the only opening created, the only bricks that fell.” [FGM]

Which of those three witnesses, if any of them, is telling it like it was?

The stories of escape above tend to suggest the prison’s doors remained impassable, forcing reliance on this problematic alternative. But many other witnesses specify they simply fled out the doors. That too comes in many varieties. The doors have been reported as left unlocked as the guards left [??], rushed through in a mob with the guards still there [PHR, p.31], opened by guards to let them out (see below), blown open by the grenades [??], or kicked open by a fellow prisoner [OG].

There is no necessary conflict in the presence of both escape routes. It’s possible that some would flee by the doors and some climb out the hole. But it isn’t likely the hole was made three different ways, or the doors opened five different ways. Somewhere in this mess, some witness accounts must be considered unreliable on this detail.

2.4.3: Burning the Dead, or Burning Alive?
Returning to Mr. Bashir, who never did explain the hole’s origin, made one final unreliable claim of note, that he was still hiding in the shed, just minutes after the shooting on the evening of the 23rd, when the fire was started. He told the Mirror how, during a quiet moment:
“I ran to the other side of the container and hid behind an empty gas canister. That’s when they poured petrol in and set it alight. They were trying to hide evidence but people were still alive. I could hear them scream." [MF]

This agrees with soldier Khalifa, who says he did the burning alive, as explained in article 3.3. A few other witnesses, as presented, seem to say they also witnessed the shed being set alight at about the time of the massacre.

Bashir Sedik told French paper Le Matin how “hidden behind a wall, he heard the screams, shots, cries for help, before seeing the fire lit. Since then he has not regained all his senses. [LM] Similar implied supports come from others, like Amr Dau Algala. Speaking to Kim Sengupta of the Independent, he described how he and one brother escaped.
“They ran for their lives amid the flames, noise and confusion and escaped. A fourth, 25-year-old Abdullah, is missing. "The last time I saw Abdullah was there, sitting in that corner […] I looked back, but there was too much smoke, I could not see my brother.” [KS]
Abdulrahim Ibrahim Bashir (no known relation to M. Bashir) contradicts that notion. An astute witness who says he counted all 153 names called out in roll call that day, Bashir escaped with two brothers from Zliten and hid with them “in a house outside the compound for three days.” From here, he “saw that the guards were still there,” finishing people off. Keeping an eye on the compound over the following days, fire only came into his narrative at an ambiguous time near when the rebels arrived:

The [warehouse] was already burning when the rebels came, but I didn’t see how it happened. I just saw it when the rebels came; it was already burnt, and black smoke was coming out. I left around sunset yesterday [August 26]. [HR]

Furthermore, as explained in article 1.2, the fire had to have been started later than the 23rd of August. Captive soldier Laskhar says it was done later that week, the UNHRC decided the 25th, and many of the bodies were still smoldering enough to see rising plumes of smoke, even in low-resolution video, right through the 28th. [TV] [SN2] [VRT?]

So was the flesh-consuming fire started the same time as the killing, with the vast majority of witnesses simply failing to notice? Or was it only to hide the facts days later as A.I. Bashir, Laskhar, and logic suggest? One of these stories - at least - has to be wrong.

2.4.4: Sequence of Attack
Along with the time of day, the basic fact that guns and grenades were used is another common point nearly all witnesses clearly relate. What order they were used in, how many grenades, and other details all have different versions. Some variation is natural, and such minor discrepancies don’t seem to be as troubling as some of the other points CIWCL has looked at. However it’s well worth some consideration.

Physicians for Human Rights witness Mohammad relates how the massacre started: “[A] soldier (name withheld) then entered the warehouse and reportedly fired his nine-millimeter pistol at one of the new detainees from Misrata who was sitting near the door. He died instantly. Another man (name withheld) was also shot, but apparently not killed.” Following this, the same two men backed out, apparently shut the doors, and fired through at the prisoners though the metal with machine guns. After this, he saw grenades tossed in through the high grating. [PHR p.26]

9 mm bullets were found at the site by PHR investigators. [PHR p.22] These provide support for this story, and/or with the story of fellow PHR interviewee “Laskhar,” who told the group he used that caliber of a pistol to kill prisoners afterward, late that night. Laskhar admitted to Physicians for Human Rights that he summarily executed 12 detainees with his nine-millimeter pistol that night.” [PHR p.37] Their first pistol witness corroborates that, claiming he “saw the soldier named Laskhar hunt down survivors with a flashlight and execute them with his nine-millimeter pistol.” [PHR p 22]

No other witnesses aside from these two specify a nine-millimeter pistol, at either end of the incident. Mohammad did not specify how he as able to make these definitive identifications in the chaos of a massacre, or at a distance around midnight, in the backwash of a flashlight.

Others do mention a pistol, or rather pistols, being used. To the CIWCL’s knowledge there are at least two of them. French paper Le Figaro reported from Mabrouk Abdullah (translated).He said at dusk on the 23rd, a monk came to bring them water for the breaking of the Ramadan fast. “‘We were praying when suddenly they threw grenades and fired machine guns and pistols. It lasted about fifteen minutes,’ he testified. [LF] Abdel Salaam Ashour cited in a report from the New York Post, didn’t mention grenades, but did mention "Three soldiers threw open the doors just after dusk and started firing into us with Kalashnikovs and pistols […] Some of us dived to the floor, and some of us ran. They shot my leg. We were all screaming." [NYP]

Neither of these specifies the exact order of pistol usage, nor the caliber of those used. Both are given as teachers, both from Zliten, Ashour aged 42 and Abdullah 45, both among the few actually claiming to be shot.

Only one witness, to the CIWCL’s knowledge, implies no grenades were used in the attack. Abed Rizaq Ghazim Senussi spoke to Canadian CTV [CTV], and judging by the video, was the anonymous man who spoke, unnamed, to Hungarian journalist Al Ghaoui Hesna [HV].Her blog entry about it, roughly translated, says “guards opened fire inside the open door, but later … abandoned the men.” The anonymous man “and many companions then managed to escape. The guards, when they returned, presumably poured gasoline over the bodies and threw hand grenades on them.” [HB]

Here, grenades are presumed, along with the fire, apparently in fact linked. He seems to think there were no fragmentation (shrapnel-generating) grenades at all, only incendiary ones. Soldier Khalifa said the same as explained in article 2.3.3. But he contradicts Senussi by lobbing in fire before leaving the site. He also made sure to lock the door before leaving, mentioning no escapees at all, including Mr. Senussi.

Aside from this, most versions say explosive hand grenades – anywhere from one to eight – were tossed in. They came in either through the grates at the top of the closed and locked doors, or perhaps tossed in through the open doors. The grenades came first, in a majority of accounts, followed by gunfire.

Whatever the order, some said the guns and grenades was cyclical. Munir El Goula said “the mercenaries entered the jail and shot the prisoners in the legs. One took a grenade and threw it in. Five times they opened the door, shot inside, and threw a grenade.” [LH] The Independent Civil Society Fact-Finding Mission to Libya heard that guards “opened the door to the large room and opened fire with light machine guns, while a number of hand grenades were also thrown into the room. This procedure was repeated a number of times, apparently until the guards ran out of ammunition.” [CS p.?]

Just when during the attack the soldiers climbed up on top of the shed and fired down through the tin roof is also in dispute. This aspect of the attack, highlighted by Human Rights Watch [HR], has a very distinct effect on the nature of the killing, making all but impossible to hide “behind” a stack of tires [DT/AG], a gas canister [MF], or the bodies of fellow prisoners [AL].

Numerous witnesses would notice when that commenced, but only Abdulrahim Ibrahim Bashir, 25, reported this aspect at all. As HRW summarized: “[A]t sunset on August 23 guards of the Khamis Brigade opened fire on him and the other detainees from the roof, shooting through the roof’s tin sheeting, while another guard threw grenades in from the entrance.” [HR]

HRW did note the bullet holes in the roof, and these definitely exist. In photographs of the dim interior, they can be seen leaving the skeletons and the floor in between them decorated with polka dots of amber light. However, none of the other witnesses has mentioned anything about the act of these holes being torn through the top of their little world there. All the firepower they hid from and recalled so vividly came through the doors, open or closed.

In this case of conflict, Bashir (at least) should be discounted. This in turn leaves us with a problem of where the bullet holes in the roof did come from.

2.4.5: Escape Attempts, Hero Guards
Ominous promises of impending “freedom” are widely reported as presaging the shed massacre. Some, like Amr Dau Algala, said this was spoken of the day before. [KS] Others , like M. Bashir, said they were so warned on the day of the event. [MF] This is not necessarily a contradiction, as the same basic information could have been repeated.

Most of these have the soldiers then simply opening the doors as if to freedom, and for greatest contrast, started massacring them instead. Mounir Own says they were promised freedom at sundown on the fateful day, something that got them all talking. And then the guards opened the doors and "instead of setting them free, Muneer says they threw a grenade inside the warehouse and then they opened fire." [CNN1]

Many accounts, and increasingly the official narratives like that of the UNHRC, include an escape attempt or a released-to-die scenario involving more initiative on the part of the prisoners, coinciding with the onset of attack.

In one version, the prisoners noisily broke out on their own, and then the soldiers re-locked the door and started killing them through the closed doors. One unnamed escapee told the makers of the video What Happened at Yarmouk “they heard the breaking, and didn’t stop it. They allowed the first person to come out, then executed him on the spot and locked the doors.” [FGM, 0:28] The unnamed host of the video isn’t clear on the first part, but corroborates the unusual claim the soldiers first locked the open doors. “They locked us in. At first a grenade, then shooting.” [FGM 4:22 ]

Another school of recall has the guards themselves undoing the lock to let the prisoners out. One version of that has the latched undone in an evil trick by the guards. To the UK Telegraph, A. M. Haleem related:
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.

"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...

Yet another set of versions has one humane guard or another unlocking the door to help. The first to be published came from escapee Mustafa Abdullah el-Hitri/el-Etri/Atiri.
this act of mercy came only after the bulk of the killing, as he related it to Alex Loyd.
“Abdul Razak was one of them but he seemed sickened by the killing and told us to flee […] He opened the barn doors and told anyone still alive to run for it.” [AL]

According to some witnesses, a different guard named “Mustafa” learned of the impending mass murder and offered to unlock the door before it could happen. This basic story is given by two witnesses, PHR’s escapees Omar and Mohammad, confirming each other where no one else does.

As Omar relates it, Mustafa brought the warning “you will either escape or die,” and unlocked the shed doors “so they could escape later that night.” [PHR p.26] The savior told the prisoners to wait thirty minutes to escape, but they were discovered and punished with the planned massacre. According to Mohammad, they were given away by chanting “God is great” too loud while waiting. [PHR p.26]

A strange melding of the two stories comes from the youthful escapee Taher el-Bahbah. He has Mustafa’s 30-minute escape plan being carried out by a guard with the name of Mustafa el Hitri’s hero, here given as “Abdul Razak Baroni.” [FB?]

It seems unlikely this is all the same guard, perhaps named Mustafa Abdul Razak Baroni. If there were two hero guards, one was remembered by some, the other by others, with at least some getting confused as to which of the two tried to open the doors early, and which one only after the shooting.

The UNHRC’s commission came up with an answer: both guards tried to help, and both before the massacre, tossing el-Hitri under the bus.
During the early evening (just after the mosques announced the start of the iftar others [066 and ‘Mustafa’ ] informed the detainees that he would leave the door of the warehouse open and turn the light off to allow the detainees to escape because “they wanted you all dead”. The guard then ran away, along with one of his colleagues [066]. The detainees did not flee, however, despite the open door. A number of other guards then came and demanded to know who had opened the door…[UH]
[066] must be Abdul Razak, collaborating somehow in Mustafa's simple plan. In all memories studied by the CIWCL so far, they were merged into either one person or zero. Here, they both ran way, long before the other soldiers were forced to do the same.

2.4.6: Soldiers Out, Soldiers In
Many witnesses agree some members of the Libyan military, some of them the guards in charge of them, wound up dying in the massacre. The exact number is unclear, but significant, perhaps as many as 20. And the sequence, again, is confused.

The slain soldiers were held prisoner in the shed along with the rest for some time, two witnesses agreed for the BBC. Reported survivors Ali Hamouda and Fathallah Abdullah al-Ashter say that on the 23rd, these men were then taken out first.
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." [OG]

The largely-Arab Independent Civil Society Fact-Finding Mission to Libya heard, as summarized in their January report, all military-linked prisoners were taken out –17-20
Shortly after sunset, a number of guards entered the room and ordered all former members of the military to leave with them. Approximately 17-20 detainees were taken from the room; soon after, those remaining heard a number of shots, which they took to mark their execution. Guards then opened the door to the large room …[CS p.34]

Munir el-Goula is among the vast majority of other witnesses who makes no mention of that ominous prelude to the all-out attack on the rest of them. In its place, he added to the soldier total an unusual twist that, again, no one else noted. Some of the guards stillon duty, standing outside the shed, were pushed in at the last minute and killed. “When they opened the gate, mercenaries came and pushed the soldiers back into the jail. They shot an old man in the leg” and then started killing everyone. El Goula’s death toll, as Channel 4 passed it on, was 20 soldiers and “more than 100” civilian prisoners.[LH]

The CIWCL finds it unusual and noteworthy that none of the former soldiers, taken out first or pushed in last, managed to be among the roughly one in three that survived to tell their of the ordeal. That honor befell the untrained civilians who escaped unharmed.

2.4.7: Witnesses vs. Medical Common Sense
Many escapees, but not all, claim to have been uninjured. A. I. Bashir said “I was not wounded, hamdullah [praise God]. They just shot and killed us.” [HR] Some of them, especially the few seen at Tripoli Medical Center, described and/or showed wounds to the media. Most of these, however, were from “captivity in Zliten.” Consider A. M. Haleem, who spoke to the Daily Telegraph on the 25th:
While in captivity in Zliten, he was subjected to days of torture, with burns and the marks of shackles clearly visible as he lay at the Tripoli Medical Centre hospital.
Mr Haleem was hit by bullets and shrapnel but managed to run behind a stack of tires which offered some protection. [DT]

It should be noted that the shackle marks were clearly visible to reporter Andrew Gilligan, but the bullet and shrapnel wounds were only stated.

With those able to show injuries from their time at the Yarmouk shed, more problems arise. Mabrouk/Muftar Abdullah/Abdallah/Aslitni, of Zliten, spoke to numerous media outlets. He says he was crouching along a wall, but was still shot once, in his side. [KL] To support it, he showed his wound to the Daily Telegraph’s cameras early on the 28th, a deep, circular hole in flesh of his lower left side. [TV] No longer bandaged, we can see that in four and a half days the surrounding scar tissue had healed from just torn open to healed and not even pink anymore.

There’s no corroboration to support Mr.Abdullah’s shooting, and none is expected in the chaos of the reported attack. But another common-sense-defying survivor is harder to explain.

Speaking to Tracey Shelton of Global Post, 26-year-old Tripoli native Aamir Benowen, says he was arrested three months before the massacre, in May or June, for what offense he does not know. Shelton saw him in bed at “the ICU unit of Tripoli’s Central Hospital,” suffering “Numerous stab wounds, broken bones and severe bruising [which] covered his body.” Furthermore, “his neck had been sliced open.” [GPS] The account continues:

Benowen said the callous attack had occurred four days before the massacre of Aug. 23 when he saw an estimated 130 prisoners shot and blown apart by hand grenades. […] he survived only because guards had assumed he was dead already. Following the attack he had been left lying in his own blood without assistance for four days. [GPS]

The lack of assistance suggests not only the guards but the prisoners he was “killed” amongst, packed in tight by all accounts, also thought he was dead. Then after the shooting, he somehow woke up enough to witness the mass killing – but not enough to appear alive as they were attacking - and to then revive and escape the shed, in some unexplained way.

However much sense this account makes, no other witness known to the CIWCL mentions a man being beaten and stabbed to death in the middle of the shed and left dead for four days. That in itself should have been memorable, even if one did not witness Mr. Benowen’s miraculous, Lazarus-like escape.

There is no reason to doubt Shelton’s account of Mr. Benowen’s injuries. He was apparently tortured and brutalized severely by someone, shortly before telling this story of a Gaddafi atrocity to the foreign media. Precisely what the connection between these events is, and the current status of Mr. Benowen, the CIWCL does not and cannot know.

2.4.8: Points of Agreement Become Suspicious
The CIWCL’s reasonable doubts about the witnesses started on seeing too little agreement on what’s supposed to be one, singular event. The effect of that is cumulative as, gain and again, questions arise about which version is true, and perhaps if either or any version is true.

At some point, if that occurs regularly enough, it’s reasonable to adopt a default suspicion over the veracity of yet another witness claim. It becomes natural to expect the mis-matched details one can find between improvised narratives, and which we find in sheaves while assembling this report.

At that point, a switch occurs. It becomes nearly impossible for a witness to agree with everyone, with so much mutually-exclusive variety. As disagreement becomes the standard, the points where there is little or no divergence begin to stand out in contrast - not as signs of a real event, but as indicators of a hidden design. One could easily wonder how these two, or those five, or all those known, could wind up concocting their stories the same way unless they were reading, from the same script, key parts that were not left to the imaginations of the public witnesses.

The points they agree on, then, deserve some attention. They agree on their own general innocence of any violence or criminal behavior. Some had supported the rebellion, even contributing to the fight indirectly, but didn’t deserve to be locked up, abused, or killed. They agree their presence there was the doing of the Khamis Brigade they were handed to after arrest by the threatened and paranoid government. They agree on the brutality, torture, degradation, and deprivation routinely visited on them by their captors. This led to death frequent enough that quite a few say they personally witnessed at least one fellow prisoner perish there prior to the massacre.

Despite all the conflicts just reviewed, the self-described witnesses tend to agree on the basics of the massacre itself. The approximate date is clear – August 22 or 23,into early 24. That’s well before rebels arrived. They agree fairly uniformly it happened shortly after sunset, which has a certain symbolism for the dying days of the regime. They agree that grenades were used. This rare twist helps explain the severely mangled remains inside the shed (see article 3.2.4).

They don’t seem to have all witnessed the same event, but all the different versions were in 100% agreement on the most crucial point of all. The killings were carried out by the Gaddafi loyalist soldiers. The time is another thing they are suspiciously consistent on. In conjunction with the accepted rebel conquest 26, this clarifies and proves who was in charge on the 23rd and the burning days after.

We now have established adequate reason to put the witness record on hold and consider the remaining evidence in a new light. As Section three will explain, the time of rebel conquest seems to be the evening of the 23rd, something that zero witnesses mention.


  1. the fire had to have been started later than the 23rd of August. Captive soldier Laskhar says it was done later that week, the UNHRC decided the 25th,

    Three days later the warehouse, used as a makeshift prison, was set on fire but the cause was unknown. [ = 26 ?aug]


    1. @hurriya - phoney performance for journalists, 26 Aug. Notice sleeveless guy at 1.17 with RPG who starred in Sky videos. 2.20 - Misrata brigade.

  2. Thanks. The Euronews video, had to find an English dubbed version. Added to exterior imagery chronology comments.

    The 26th makes sense too. Anytime after the rebels took over and piled the bodies, er, anytime before that. Best if it's just before.

  3. Just looking up the HRW report, 29 August.. set on fire "within three days"
    What struck me was the bit about an anonymous local resident...(Salem??)....A local resident who lived near the warehouse and had medical training said he heard the shooting and explosions on August 23. Neighbors then approached him to assist with the wounded. The man, who did not want his name disclosed, said:

    Last Wednesday, sometime after the early evening prayer, I heard the sound of heavy gunfire and grenades, then complete calm. Then in the evening, my neighbors came to me. They asked if I could help people with gunshot wounds…I told them to take them to the hospital. [The neighbors] were scared to take them to the hospital, so they kept them [at home].

    He told Human Rights Watch that Gaddafi forces had begun using the area outside of the Yarmouk military base since about early May. He said that the warehouse in which the detainees were held was previously an agricultural facility.

    The "early May" part of the story is at variance with the Cobb-Smith story from March 2011.

  4. Witness Abed Rizaq Ghazim Senussi oddly appears on the text accompanying the Daniel Berehulak photo of the body in the front loader bucket, labelled TRIPOLI, LIBYA - AUGUST 28: A body relocated from a mass grave next to a warehouse, the site of a massacre, on August 28, 2011 in Tripoli, Libya. Up to 145 people were detained in a warehouse which was then set on fire to on the 23rd of August, locals said. The people, Libyan civilians, were arrested by pro-Gaddafi loyalists for interrogation, some of them months ago. As the Libyan rebel forces were advancing the pro-Gaddafi forces started to shoot the detainees and continued to throw grenades into the warehouse, in order to cover up the interrogations. 35 people escaped as the guards were reloading their weapons, according to a survivor, Abed Rizaq Ghazim Senussi from the city of Grames, he being one of them.

    1. Why does it say "mass grave" when clearly the bodies brought in were never buried. In fact, the two bodies dumped – if they originate from the neighboring lot – are the only ones not involved in some mass grave or massacre or some other grisly "Gaddafi crime." They might simply be battle casualties.


      Off-topic: Two photos ahead you find this image of AP journalist Ben Hubbard you said you could not access through the link in the other article.

      Mideast Libya
      Rebel fighters and a journalist who was helping translate look on at an African migrant worker whom rebels had accused of being a mercenary, seen detained in the military base in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. The man and ten others were later released. Hundreds of migrant workers remain stranded in Libya after six months of war, unable to flee the country. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

    2. @Petri - as Stuart Ramsay speaks at 16.01 Aug 27 in the first Sky video, across the screen flashes the news Sky Correspondent witnesses mass grave from massacre on August 23 in Southern Tripoli at 0.53ff. Ramsay:"Beneath where they are standing there are believed to be more bodies buried" [in the middle of the compound] at 1.33.
      Thus the lie is born.

  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2HgcSpthPQ&feature=related
    0.22 several men held @ the base

    LIBYA UN Ban Ki-Moon Doesn't Tour Ethnically Cleansed Tawergha Or Condemn Black Persecution 11.02.11

    witness : abdel hadhi bishweya

  6. Adam,

    I know of the alleged massacre only through your writing and the comments—not your source materials—so I’m certainly not an expert on this matter. Keep this in mind when considering the following criticism. I found myself somewhat frustrated by the essay’s tentativeness. Based on your characterization of the evidence, it’s obvious that some witnesses were lying and the UN Human Rights Council claim that there are “small discrepancies” among witnesses is either a lie or the result of suspiciously weak analysis.

    E.g., one person says 15 minutes of gunfire, another remembers 6 hours. (Am I right on these facts?). If most are saying 15-30 minutes of shooting, okay, maybe they’re telling the truth. But the guy who says 6 hours is lying. It’s not believable that he could plausibly “remember” the shooting for lasting six hours. Moreover, it is ridiculous to say it is a “small discrepancy” if one person says 15 minutes of shooting and another claims six hours. This inconsistency is prima facie evidence of lying.

    Another example: Amr Dau Algala told the Independent that there were threats the day before the killings: “The threat proved to be real the following morning when the murders began.” This is an excellent example of a flat-out lie, not a “small discrepancy.” Practically everyone else is saying the killing occurred at night. It’s not believable that ADA would remember the alleged attack starting in the morning.

    ADA is associated with another lie. The date of the alleged massacre is widely agreed to be the 23rd. ADA claims that survivors of the massacre were running from a burning building. UNHRC decided the fire was set on the 25th, however, and if this time is true, ADA is lying about the fire (and presumably about everything else).

    The material you have about ADA speaks to lying, not a “small discrepancy.” I think it’s best to make the general point explicit: e.g., “although the UNHRC claims that there are ‘small discrepancies’ among alleged-survivor narratives, in fact, some witnesses are almost certainly lying, and the integrity of the UNHRC report is suspect.” And the place for an idea like this is up front: indeed, many readers read only the first paragraph or so.

    This is a crucial point about a general audience: many read the headline and only the first paragraph.

    If your piece is directed to UNHRC, well, of course, calling them rat-faced liars in the first sentence probably won’t go over well.

    Best of luck with the essay.

    Art Bethea

    1. I wonder why the UNHRC suddenly claims that the fire was started on the 25th, when everyone else was saying it happened on the 26th? It could be that UNHRC now has evidence, that the shed was in rebel hands on the 26th – and therefore al Gaddafi "had" to burn it a day before.

  7. I do not think it would be possible to exit the hole and get over the wall at the same time. It would be a challenge to just to get out without falling head first on the ground.

    These is some distance between the back wall of the shed and the perimeter wall. You can see this this be observing the parallax "movement" of the wall tiles in the different shots of the hole. I estimate the distance to be at least 0.5 meters, or 2 feet. Someone claimed, that the guards would keep "man-eating" dogs in this space.

  8. Khamis eventually had a taste of his own medicine: after fleeing south from Tripoli, he is thought to have been killed when an Apache helicopter fired a rocket at his armoured car near the town of Bani Walid. Had he remained on the run, the next organisation seeking the pleasure of his company would have been The Hague war crimes court, which is already investigating the warehouse massacre and several other mass graves found near his brigade’s HQ.

    In the course of that inquiry, there may be questions about why Britain deemed it fit to equip a unit whose name suggested it was a private militia. Last week, a spokesman for the DSO insisted it “did not export equipment where there is a clear risk it could be used for internal repression”.

    Correspondence found in the embassy, which was ransacked and torched by a pro-Gaddafi mob in May, shows the extraordinary extent to which Britain courted the unit.

    The General Dynamics contract opened up a new era of close co-operation with the Libyan military, including SAS training for the Khamis Brigade, plans for courses at Sandhurst, trips by British generals to meet Khamis in Libya and taxpayer-funded invitations to the Farnborough Air Show for other Gaddafi military chiefs, with accommodation in five-star London hotels. The documents even show that civil servants advised Khamis on how to block a Freedom of Information request about an invitation to a British arms fair.

    Nowhere is the eagerness to please more apparent on the British side than in touting the services of the SAS.


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