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Five sons missing in Libya chaos

Thousands of people are believed to have disappeared across Libya amid the chaos of the six-month civil war, with one rebel official putting the unofficial number at 50,000.

In one case, five brothers vanished at a checkpoint manned by Gaddafi loyalists, prompting family and friends to search for them across Tripoli.

So far, they have found no sign of the men, aged 21 to 31. "It's hard ... five children," their father, Abdel Salam Abu Naama, said as he laid out their passport photos on a cushion in his living room to show journalists.

With the rebel forces tightening their control over the North African nation and only a few regime strongholds still putting up a fight, the painstaking process of finding the many missing people has begun.

Retreating Gaddafi forces killed scores of detainees as the rebels advanced, according to witnesses and human rights groups.

In one case, they left dozens of bodies charred beyond recognition and piled near a military base. The bodies of others killed during the fighting, from pro-Gaddafi African fighters to a doctor in hospital scrubs, were hastily collected and piled in morgues or dumped by the roadside.

Many may never be identified. Of 297 bodies brought to Tripoli Central Hospital since August 20, some 170 had to be buried without names, said the director, Gassem Baruni.

At the Tripoli Medical Centre, a majority of the nearly 200 bodies collected in the second half of August were unidentified, morgue attendants said. In hopes of someday identifying the corpses, officials take photos of them before burial, collect hair for DNA analysis and note personal items.

In the lobby of the Central Hospital, photos of missing men cover one wall, with brief descriptions of final sightings and phone contacts for relatives. Haloma Cherif, an 18-year-old hospital volunteer, said she had collected about 500 missing persons reports, all of them men, and more are pouring in every day.

"Seeing the parents coming and reporting it, it is a hard feeling," said Ms Cherif. The most difficult thing, she said, is sending family members to the morgue.

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