Libya’s new rulers said on Sunday that they had unearthed a mass grave of 1 700 prisoners slain by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in a 1996 uprising — a massacre that helped trigger the revolt that ousted the despot.
The gruesome find came as hundreds of the National Transitional Council’s (NTC) fighters thrust into Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte from the east and Nato warplanes pounded the coastal city for a second straight day.
The remains of the prisoners executed at Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salim jail were found in a mass grave in the capital, said Khalid Sharif, spokesperson for the NTC’s military council.
“We found the place where all these martyrs were buried,” said Sharif, adding it was proof of “criminal acts” by Gaddafi’s regime.
Salim al-Farjani, a member of the committee set up to identify the remains, appealed for international help.
“We call on foreign organisations and the international community to help us in this task of identifying the remains of more than 1 700 people,” said Farjani.
The first demonstrations in Libya which finally ousted Gaddafi last month erupted in Benghazi in February, when families of Abu Salim victims called for protests against the arrest of their lawyer.
Farjani said he witnessed the gruesome site where the Abu Salim victims were found.
“We were invited to visit the place where the corpses of the prisoners at Abu Salim were found, where we saw scattered human bones,” he said.
Farjani also referred to “egregious acts committed against dead bodies on which acid was poured to eliminate any evidence of this massacre.”
Sharif said the task of identifying the remains would “require some time.”
International rights groups had for years urged Gaddafi’s regime to come clean about the fate of prisoners killed at the jail during a 1996 riot. — AFP