Tripoli hospital turned into 'mass morgue'
Published Saturday, August 27, 2011 7:36AM EDT
TRIPOLI - Warning: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers.
The corpses were splayed on gurneys and rotting. One still had an intravenous tube in his arm. Each body was dumped to the ground, rolled in plastic and heaved to the pile on a truck in a ritual repeated dozens of times without ceremony.
The discovery of as many as 200 bodies at Abu Salim hospital in Tripoli was an appalling scene to witness. Masks did little to filter the stench. The men on duty sprayed the air with deodorizer thinking it might help. It didn't.
We were told that doctors and staff abandoned the hospital during fierce fighting. That was nearly a week ago. When rebels took control of the area a few days ago doctors returned to the hospital, which by then was effectively a mass morgue.
It is unclear how the men, women and children died. The bodies we saw were those of Gadhafi loyalists who were wounded in battle. A poster of Moammar Gadhafi presided over a room slick with blood, water and maggots.
At least two men were shot in their beds. They were on the second floor covered with blankets. As the gurneys were wheeled away you could see where a bullet had passed through the pillow. The blood on the wall hinted at an execution. One of the bodies had a Libyan military card identifying him as a special forces member.
Nobody there claimed to know whether it was Gadhafi or rebel gunmen who executed them. I asked one doctor to give his opinion on how long the two men had been dead. He estimated two or three days, then shook his head and walked down the blood-streaked corridor.
With the battle for Libya in its seventh month the scope of the violence and the lines it has drawn is coming into sharper view. There are claims of atrocities on both sides: Amnesty International says it has evidence the Gadhafi regime employed torture, rape and murder. Rebels are also accused of killing prisoners.
The truth may never be known at Abu Salim hospital. The disposal of each body into the truck was punctuated in the same way: the stinking gurney was kicked down the sloping driveway so it could roll into a parking lot that by sunset was full.