Atrocities and lack of supplies strain Tripoli (VIDEO)
In Tripoli, human rights workers and locals are uncovering evidence of mass killings by Muammar Qaddafi's retreating army. Meanwhile, water distribution and other basic services are in disarray.
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But many challenges remain, posing an immediate test of the interim government's ability to rule a restless country after 42 years of brutal, capricious leadership. Leaders in the National Transitional Council (NTC) and its local Tripoli branch face scrutiny both from international organizations as well as citizens facing shortages of water, fuel, and electricity.
Evidence is beginning to emerge of atrocities committed in the heat of the fighting, with Human Rights Watch reporting more than 100 arbitrary executions of detainees, medical workers, and others throughout the capital. While journalists and human rights workers are still investigating the atrocities, the New York-based organization said it suspected the Qaddafi regime.
“The evidence we have been able to gather so far strongly suggests that Gaddafi government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
At a roundabout south of Bab al-Aziziya, Qaddafi’s sprawling compound in central Tripoli, more than 30 corpses were found in and around what looked like a makeshift field hospital.
They wore the green wristbands of Qaddafi loyalists, although the wristbands looked suspiciously new compared with the state of their clothing, and at least some of them appeared to have been executed.
At the nearby Abu Salim hospital, more than 100 bodies were discovered on Friday. On an upper floor at least two Qaddafi soldiers had clearly been executed while lying in their hospital beds. But claims that Abu Salim constituted a massacre perpetrated by the victorious rebels need further investigation.
“Some of them came in here alive, others were already dead. Some were Qaddafi soldiers, but some were rebels, too,” says Naima Al Maghribi, the head of the hospital’s cleaning crew, as she leaned on a mop and tried to clean up the facility.
One explanation, repeated by several hospital staff members, was that the Abu Salim hospital became a morgue for fighters from both sides as well as civilians killed in the fight for the capital.
There was another grim scene in the Sallaheddine neighborhood, where at least 45 bodies were discovered in a charred hangar near a barracks belonging to the Khamis Brigade, named after one of Qaddafi’s sons and sometimes referred to as the 32nd Brigade.