moved to a new post May 17, 2012
<< Abu Salim Hospital Massacre
This really upsetting slice of the unfolding Tripoli massacres mysteries is of particular gravity. Those who witnessed the scene have almost universally called it one of the most upsetting things they'd seen in the war so far, or anywhere ever.
Up-front special note: What few of them even noticed, like most Tripoli massacres, this one is mostly of black people. Unlike the others known so far, this one included women and children found dumped amid the scene of mass execution and bestial bloodletting.
The story came to me first primarily from Andrew Simmons, reporting for al Jazeera English August 26. (article/video link, embedded video below). This was apparently the first report for everyone that triggered a confused little one-day avalanche of coverage there. As he said in an interview with American NPR, "we were called to the hospital by a bystander on the street who seemed very distressed. When we arrived, we were confronted with this horrific image of a dead body on a gurney outside the hospital," and then the rest of the horror show.
And for good measure, another video report by the BBC's John Simpson, an old propaganda hack (original report and video). He has Muammar Gaddafi responsible for the misery there, poetically anyway: "in one ward, colonel Gaddafi's picture smiles down genially over the horror." That particular room couldn't even be shown to us, it was so grisly, but that madman was there, grinning over it from the wall.
The inside of the hospital was no less grim. Trails and pools of dried blood, several layers deep in spots, maggots, desolation, no staff from any party to be seen, and an "acrid, sickly smell" of death gave it that unique ambience. The smell n particular was the number one story of the day, especially per Simpson's reportage. One room, usually the sick ward, is simply stuffed full of the deceased, at least ten of them we can see, apparently 21 total. They lay inert on on blood-smeared gurneys, covered in paper sheets. Two black men at least have their heads or a naked leg sticking out. At least two others seem to be black-skinned judging by hair and/or the covers' transluscency, and the others I just can't tell. Segregated hospital?
Death Toll: 75-200+ (??)
The guy al Jazeera talked with (see below) said "I think more than 100" deceased persons were currently stuck at the hospital. Simmons said "we left unable to verify the total number of dead. We saw 39 bodies. One had said up to 150 are kept there." Hadeel al-Shalchi wrote for the Associated Press on August 26 that "One hospital room had 21 bodies lying on gurneys, while 20 others were in the hospital's courtyard next to the parking lot — all of them darker skinned than most Libyans, covered with blankets."
The BBC reported on August 26 (above link), after Simspon's visit, that "more than 200 decomposing bodies" were in there, including "corpses of men, women and children on beds and in the corridors." I haven't yet seen any women or children among the dead, and presume the number is small. Simmons said to NPR "We could make out men and some women, only a few. We didn't see any children."
The usual accusation of regime authorship for these deaths has been muted, but the BBC reported that, apparently per Mr. Simpson, "some residents accused the regime of murdering those at the hospital." Al Jazeer'as Simmons told NPR "there were stories of executions taking place near to the hospital. The Gadhafi force, operatives, just completely indiscriminately shooting people at close range - civilians." And an AFP video included a caption saying the patients were "attacked by pro-Kadhafy Snipers" before dying there of neglect. No source is cited for the caption.
|AP Photo, Francois Mori, Aug 26|
Also consider, if these bodies were put in the room because they were dead, why did they gush so much blood in the same room to plaster the floor like we see here? Other photos and videos confirm it's a thick layer almost wall-to-wall, and usually the dead or even marginally tended (wheeled around) injured, don't gush buckets of blood. I suspect several jugulars were cut open in this room.
Another AP story from August 28 agreed on the general racial makeup of the dead, and the ambiguity of how they got that way, but found a much lower estimate of their number being offered:
It remains unclear who is responsible for some of the other killings, including of [sic] dozens of dark-skinned men whose bodies were found in two areas of Tripoli. Reporters saw bodies in advanced stages of decomposition at Abu Salim hospital, including in the parking lot, a ward and in the basement. Barakat, the health minister, said a total of 75 corpses were found at the hospital.Canadian CTV, August 27, while claiming perplexity on who's crime(s) were on display, had valuable clues on at least two victims:
It is unclear how the men, women and children died. The bodies we saw were those of Gadhafi loyalists who were wounded in battle. A poster of Moammar Gadhafi presided over a room slick with blood, water and maggots.Sky News went further, saying in their video report "dozens of men were shot dead in this hospital in what can only be described as an execution." They too hedge their bets on the killers, but hint as they cannot avoid that it was probably other regime loyalists.
At least two men were shot in their beds. They were on the second floor covered with blankets. As the gurneys were wheeled away you could see where a bullet had passed through the pillow. The blood on the wall hinted at an execution. One of the bodies had a Libyan military card identifying him as a special forces member.
Nobody there claimed to know whether it was Gadhafi or rebel gunmen who executed them. I asked one doctor to give his opinion on how long the two men had been dead. He estimated two or three days, then shook his head and walked down the blood-streaked corridor.
The Living Patients: A Colorful and Chilling Mix
The living are terrifying to see as well, as Simmons' crew with al Jazeera recorded them. One they showed that sticks with you is a smallish, delerious, nearly naked black man laying at an odd angle on his bed, with "severe abdominal injuries," all but convulsing and, I almost hoped, very near to death's solace. He does have tubes and bandages and what looks like a full colostomy bag, but no one was there at the moment to tend to him or the other six or more black victims lined up in their hospital beds on one side of the room (or is this a different room entirely from where the Arab patients are?)
The Arab patients seem better tended to and an interesting bunch. One man speaks freely (in Arabic, untranslated here), apparently a "Freedom Fighter." Another unconscious man with a bullet in his spine, it's said, isn't able to give us many clues. Another man looks away from the camera with the same grim intensity that I've seen on captured Gaddafi loyalists, but never this fierce. His face is laced with crusty burns, and his right arm missing, but for a stub.
Another patient is a fair, nice-looking boy, about twelve, who had a bullet (government, no doubt) removed from his chest and is recovering fine. Not to sound flippant, but was this his x-ray perchance? (see: The Sniped Tykes of Misrata?) He flashes the rebel victory sign and pumps his fist, while looking at someone off-camera expectantly, as if to say "am I doing this right?" I hope I didn't get him beaten to a pulp for publicly noting that I saw that.
The Guardian noted on August 26 that "the International Red Cross have now evacuated the hospital, with 21 seriously sick, including a boy with a bullet wound to the chest and a male civilian with a round in his spine." Speaking to NPR the same day, Andrew Simmons confirmed that exactly 21 patients had been removed by the Red Cross. That's a small crew of living for such a huge pool of dead. Clearly the rebels thought of it more as a morgue and storehouse than a real hospital. I'm happy to hear the living were taken, and swiftly, the hell out of that disgusting and dangrous environment.
The old, presumably loyalist staff was just gone. It's said they fled from the intense fighting, "leaving seven medics," Simmons reported, and "only two of them are doctors." As I explain below, it's not entirely clear the current staff was "left" as a remainder of the old. But everyone who hears the current staff speak gets the same impression. The BBC's Simpson heard from his rebel minders/sources: "the hospital staff here all ran away days ago because of the fighting." Did they "run away like rats?"
Surgeons and nurses in a war zone, likely hardcore loyalists in the last Gaddafi holdout area, just fleeing their stations as their compatriots lay bleeding to death in the field or in their own care? And they never once came back after things mellowed out? Of course, the rebels might retort with the usual subtlety, "the regime was wicked, its people weak and corrupt..."
Ideally, there are two main ways a dedicated and professional medical team will flee from the intense fighting, both when their own lives are in imminent danger: if the walls are literally coming down from shelling, or gunmen storm in and start shooting at them. In the latter case, it might be too late to run, and the building seems totally intact. Although Hadeel al-Shalchi noted for AP that "medical equipment was strewn about."
|Photo: Reuters, Youssef Boudlal, Aug 26|
as Mr. al-Shalchi noted elsewhere, at least one doctor in his medical gown was found floating in a canal. I did find a canal in the satellite imagery of the area, which showed it dry but about one kilometer down the freeway east of the hospital (see left).
The Guardian on August 26 explained that the Abu Salim trauma hospital "was the front line hospital as rebels closed in on Tripoli," suggesting as I have that it was run by solid loyalists. But by their sources, it "has been abandoned for five days after medical staff fled sniper fire." Other sources agree on the approximate time span, at least per their rebel sources. This has the caregivers running from snipers, presumably government ones and the same ones that shot the nice kid, back on August 21, before the rebels were really even inside Tripoli. Other sources agree on what they were told, leaving virtually no possibility that the rebels themselves cleared it. As CTV reported on August 27:
We were told that doctors and staff abandoned the hospital during fierce fighting. That was nearly a week ago. When rebels took control of the area a few days ago doctors returned to the hospital, which by then was effectively a mass morgue.But in reality, and considering all the evidence so far, the staff probably went away - and stayed away for good - starting a day or so later than that, and it might have been from not doing enough fleeing - just like the special forces soldier and the other government loyalist patient CTV's people saw, and likely others, who were executed in their beds.
Whatever we make of the lack of doctors, what kind of ambulances continued delivering the wounded to a place with none? The BBC's Simpson just cited it as a weird fact. The staff disappeared "but seriously injured people kept on being brought in. Dozens of them, perhaps as many as a hundred altogether. And here, they died of their injuries, entirely untreated." One clue as to who's responsible for this sickening mass neglect is the obvious fact that the people dropped off there to die and rot were primarily black men of the type rebels have been slaughtering non-stop for months in city after city. They did also by by this time have plenty of trucks and general free reign over the whole city.
The one staff member al Jazeera's Simmons talked with is described as a surgical technician, name not given. He seems fairly young, despite the dark, deepset eyes and thinning hair. He walks with great ease and confidence to be any loyalist, although his allegiance wasn't specified. He's apparently been working there for days, saying that two patients died when electricity was cut two days earlier. He does not, on camera, rush around doing what he can to tend to the living. Instead he acts, I thought, as if he's written them off anyway. He simply shows them to the world, slowly, asking for their help to ease this horror that, quite clearly, was left to them by the fleeing regime.
He's clearly a rebel sympathizer at least, perhaps a fighter, and possibly involved in the clearing out, by execution, of the old staff. Serious investigation is requred here to break the "blame Gaddafi" trance. I fear it will not be allowed, now that we're trying to convince ourselves Freedom has come to Libya.
Additional finds, perhaps to be worked-in later:
A short BBC video, little of value:
Two more videos from AFP
The second says the patients were "attacked by pro-Kadhafy Snipers." It shows armed rebels directing the crew in, the basement morgue, several black men in adjacent rooms, one somewhat close, floor stained red and a strange yellow from the blood.
The first shows the chest-shot boy taken out, Mohammed by name, and his mother, who didn't know where he was, was worried he was dead. There are also two black men injured in a car crah, it's said, one of whom sings the hospital's praises for fixing him right up just fine.
Two more links were linked on a useful page I had passed over earlier. Little Mohammed gets a central role in this Euronews video dispatch. His father is weeping strangely, and specifies he'd been looking for the kid five days. Again, everything at the hospital happened August 26 - they happened to find him just moments before the Red Cross Crescent people took him to Tripoli hospital, where he'd be examined. He's shown shirtless carried to gurney. As with the other sniped tykes I've studied, he seems to have no visible injuries, stiffness, or any sign of having an adult-sized bullet enter his body and damage a damn thing. All this adds is a "human interest" bright spot to this unexplained scene of vaguely-explained horror. I believe quite firmly now the boy at least was staged.
The Telegraph had an article and video I had missed before. It gives the death toll as "up to 80." It's filmed a little later, during the clean-up. Bodies are placed in plastic bags, folded up and the bags cinched at the top, so they can be carried like real garbage bags. One man who seems shocked and on the level says he heard up to 200 bodies were there, but he'd only seen 40 or 50, and heard there were an equal number upstairs. Another guy present, not in nurse/cleanup clothes, points to a dead black man on a gurney, and says "?? Muammar Gaddafi," and repeats it for emphasis. The doing of? A mercenary of?
The article cites Mohammed Yunis, a "medical-student-turned-nurse" turned-again-cleanup worker for the leavings of someone's barbarity. "It is a disaster," he said. "There is no more medicine in the hospital, no more medical personnel. They all left for fear of the snipers." The same snipers, one presumes, that injured the "patients" there...
And Felix alerts me in the comments that Gulf Arab news channel al Aan had a dispatch from there as well, posted on Youtube August 27. It shows bodies on gurneys outside, covered but with bits sticking out - a black hand coated in flies, another black arm, the lighter-skinned feet (one strangely puffed-up) of a man in camouflage pants. At least two empty gurneys among those piles show massive bloodletting occurred on them. Inside are hallways cleaned spic and span, but everyone still wearing masks and hiding from the smell. The Arabic interviews might be of use to an Arabic-speaker.
The 19/20 bodies dumped outside are shown, piled helter-skelter among clothing, foam pads, bedding, cardboard boxes ... things people trying to flee a city at war might carry (maybe in some of the ransacked cars left abandoned all over the area?). Again, they seem to be primarily dark-skinned would-be refugees.
of this article (some version, sorry I re-edit so much) and/or the urgent appeal summary:
English: Uruknet: http://uruknet.com/?p=m80955&hd=&size=1&l=e, http://www.uruknet.info?new=81290
Others re-posted from there.
French: Michel Collon, Sept.14, translated to French! http://www.michelcollon.info/Appel-Urgent-abus-des-rebelles-non.html
Made into a PDF! Passed on by other Francophones, like Miss Libyana!
Spanish: Not quite a re-post but heavily derivative, and again translated! http://www.ciaramc.org/ciar/boletines/cr_bol391.htm
"Freedom" Fighter Censorship
Rebel postings that lean towards this being, of course, a regime crime in any possible way:
The content is just al Jazeera's original video with a little commentary. The comments beneath are fascinating, though mine don't seem to have appeared, and now the pages won't even load. One had a comment from "Fredy," complaining of some alleged bias by "Amenity International" against the rebels, causing them to have "no opinion" on this obvious rebel crime. He calls the rebels "warm hearted and brave," and says by exposing the gov't crimes at the hospital, they are bringing "SANITY" back to Libya. My response was this:
Fredy, with the utmost irony you've gotten it. Backwards, but you got it.
"What we saw on this video is called war crimes. Actually is total disregard for other people’s lives. ... What we see on this video is an act of coward who want to rule with terror."
Indeed. Here's the situation at the hospital:If powerful people remain silent on this cluster of crimes, as they are doing, people like Fredy shouldn't complain about the obvious, insanely devoted, and criminal pro-rebel bias that shows.
Said: Old staff ran away from gov't snipers just before FFs got there
Fact: Blood spatters like gun executions on the floor
Said: Patients in there injured by gov't snipers, died of neglect
Fact: Some patients shot in their bed (gov't loyalists/soldiers)
Fact: The dead are almost 100% black men
Fact: One black patient was beheaded in his hospital bed
Fact: The rebels now in charge are the ones missing massacre clues and saying the staff "ran away."
How hard is that math? Warm hearted and brave, bringing SANITY in place of psychopaths. Everywhere they liberate, horrible things were happening just before - not just after - they got there.
Seriously - world leaders, readers, crusaders, anyone ... the math on this is not hard. People will be able to see some day this and perhaps the larger holocaust this is the nose-above-the-water to. They will ask questions about why you remained silent and allowed it to continue. Answer them, truthfully, "I didn't."
Update Oct. 6: I've got a video on this now, posted here along with some assorted observations I made while editing it, especially on the parking lot victims and how I think they were civilians caught trying to run away from liberation. Not always allowed.
Also, I checked for updates on any investigations of this particularly heinous event. All I found newer than late August was this report from "Ricky" with Press TV, on the hospital's re-opening on September 14. It says in part "the staff fled and 164 patients died. [!!!] Civilians and fighters alike, their corpses left all over the building to rot." Clearly, the fuzzy first impression hadn't cleared up in their minds with weeks to consider the known facts. "Libya seems ready to move forward and turn the page on the Gadaffi years, The reopening of the Abu Salim hospital is a firm and welcome step in this direction." As is the all-but-guaranteed lack of a real investigation into just what happened there.