|The dead men at Mitiga Hospital are hard evidence that the fall of Tripoli was not without its atrocities. [Evan Hill]|
From inside a makeshift prison across the street from Muammar Gaddafi’s compound, Osama Mansour el-Hadi listened to the beginning of the end.
It was Tuesday, and rebels had begun to overrun the sprawling 6km-square complex, known as the Bab al-Aziziya, where Gaddafi’s palace and the homes of his innermost clique sat in a warren of offices and military bunkers.
Gunfire rang out, Hadi told Al Jazeera, and cries of “God is great!” echoed over the compound’s walls.
For many Libyans, it was a joyous moment; the most symbolic assault yet on the reviled regime that had shackled the country for more than 40 years.
But for Hadi and 25 other civilian men, held by armed Gaddafi loyalists at a rundown apartment building now serving as an warzone detention center, a horrific massacre was about to begin.
As machine gun and artillery fire engulfed at the compound across the street, the captors marched Hadi and the other men into the street at gunpoint. They were lined up with the walls of the Bab al-Aziziya behind them as the sounds of the regime’s downfall split the air.
Then Gaddafi’s gunmen opened fire, spraying a barrage of bullets into their captives’ heads, necks and chests.
Hadi collapsed into a pile of shuddering bodies, his shoulder, hand and right thigh shattered by bullets. Another prisoner escaped, Hadi said, and the murderers fled. As of Thursday, there had been no arrests or any known investigation into the grisly killing.
Hadi tells of detention
The bodies were found a day later and taken to Tripoli’s Mitiga Hospital, a facility once-reserved for Gaddafi’s military brass and high-ranking officials that now lies in rebel-controlled territory.
It was here, in a sparse and filthy hospital room, that Hadi told his story to Al Jazeera on Thursday. He was the only known survivor of the summary execution.
Elsewhere in the hospital, 15 of his fellow prisoners were laid out in the corner of the car park under a metal roof. Covered only partially by blood-stained, plastic sheets, some of the victims’ ghastly wounds were exposed. The smell was gagging.
Some men had been identified. One man, Abdelsalem, came from the town of Taghma. Others were simply marked “non-Muslim” for burial purposes.
In the hospital room, Hadi’s forehead creased with pain as he spoke. Someone had draped the tri-colour rebel flag behind his head and over his shoulders. His father, in a pristine-white jalabeya and skullcap, stood watching at his bedside.
Hadi originally comes from Badr, in the western Nafousa Mountains. Rebels there led the advance on Tripoli, but Hadi’s town was sympathetic to Gaddafi. He and his father were not. During the final push on the capital, the two left for the capital.
Hadi was arrested on August 15, five days before the uprising began in the city. He said he had been staying at a house in the Janzour district when 15 armed men came, blindfolded him and took him away. He said he was innocent and claimed to not have been part of the opposition.
Others he met in the makeshift prison had been there longer, for more than two weeks. Most, he said, claimed they were civilians, picked up off the street while walking or riding bicycles.
The guards gave their captives little food to eat, cursed at them, and doused them with urine, Hadi said.
Talk of more mass killings
Outside Hadi’s room, the packed intensive care unit testified to the ongoing clashes in Tripoli. Nearly 30 young men lay injured, awaiting treatment.
Youssef Hodiry, an orthopedic surgeon from the United Kingdom and had recently arrived from Misrata, said the hospital had few medical staff, most had run away or were too afraid to come to work.
By Thursday, Mitiga Hospital was running low on tetanus shots and immunoglobin syrums, doctors said. Representatives from the International Medical Corps had arrived to assess the situation. They photographed the bodies of the dead prisoners as well.
According to Mohammed Rashed, a general surgeon from the United Kingdom who had arrived in Tripoli from Misrata just days ago, the hospital had no forensic surgeons to examine the murdered men.
Nobody had conducted any autopsies, he said, adding that two of the bodies had already been taken away by relatives for a funeral.
Tripoli is these days flooded with rumours of other massacres. Locals speak of prison executions and rebel corpses found in shipping containers.
As the truth comes out, the dead men who were laid in a car park at Mitiga Hospital are hard evidence that the fall of Tripoli had not been free of war’s atrocities.