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Gruesome finds in Libya may not be the last

Piles of bodies from massacres mark the end of Gaddafi regime

There are fears for the lives of tens of thousands of people in Libya, as evidence of mass atrocities grows.

Up to 150 people were found dead - with 53 bodies burnt - in a warehouse outside Tripoli over the weekend.

A Sky News reporter was told that the mass killings had been carried out days before by Gaddafi loyalists. A witness said the victims had been executed because they had refused to kill civilians.

Nearby, residents said other bodies were buried in the area. It is believed Gaddafi's troops carried out the killings as rebel forces entered Tripoli.

Reporters touring the city have found clusters of decomposing corpses in several areas of the capital, including a roundabout near Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizya stronghold.

"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 Witson of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Since rolling into the Libyan capital a week ago, rebels have fought fierce battles with regime loyalists, but by this weekend had largely pushed them to the outskirts of the city.

The rebels now control most of Libya, but Gaddafi remains at large.

Rebels fear that up to 50,000 Libyan prisoners are now missing.

Their leaders believe that as many as 60,000 insurgents were jailed since the beginning of the uprising in February, but only around 11,000 have been freed and accounted for.

"The number of people arrested over the past months is estimated at between 57,000 and 60,000. Between 10,000 and 11,000 prisoners have been freed, so where are the others?" Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani, a rebel leader, said.

Reports have suggested that thousands of prisoners are being held in underground bunkers. However, finding the bases in time could prove difficult.

One man, Osama Al-Swayi, said he survived a massacre at a building of the Libyan Internal Security service in the Gargur neighbourhood last Monday.

Al-Swayi said he had been detained by soldiers from the Khamis Brigade, commanded by one of Gaddafi's sons, two days before the shooting.

Twenty-five people were detained in the building, he said.

Last Monday, detainees heard rebels advancing and shouting "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is great", he told Human Rights Watch.

"We were so happy, and we knew we would be released soon," he said. "Snipers were upstairs; then they came downstairs and started shooting.

"I was near the corner and got hit in the right hand, the right foot and the right shoulder.

"In one instant, they finished off all the people with me. Some of them had head wounds," he told the rights group.

Human Rights Watch also collected testimony from witnesses who said they saw Gaddafi troops arbitrarily kill civilians, including a doctor and another man pulled from an ambulance.

Gaddafi's apparent offer of talks on forming a new government in Libya was dismissed as "delusional" yesterday.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Colonel Gaddafi was ignoring the reality of his defeat.

Factfile

Muammar Gaddafi's son Al-Saadi liked fast cars, yachts and football, and his beachfront villa was stocked with his expensive toys. His sister Aisha lived in a two-storey mansion with a pool and sauna. As rebels took control of the Libyan capital at the weekend, the luxurious homes - symbols of the Gaddafi family's excesses - were among their first targets. After driving out the guards, rebels trashed and looted the villas, taking four luxury cars.

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