50 charred skeletons found near Gaddafi military base

Local residents found the remains yesterday after rebel forces took control of the base of the 32 Brigade commanded by Gaddafi's son Khamis in the district of Salaheddin, a suburb just south of the capital.

"I am shocked, I never imagined I would see a scene like this in Libya," Dr Salim Rajub, who lives near the base, told AFP, indicating they were victims of a massacre last Tuesday.

"On August 23, we heard gunfire before breaking the (Ramadan) fast and people shouting for help, but there were snipers outside and nobody could get close," he said.

"These men were killed by Kalashknikovs and hand grenades, and then they were burned."

Residents said there were a total of 53 bodies in the cinder block building, which showed signs of damage. An AFP correspondent at the scene counted at least 50 human skulls in the ashes.

The walls of the prison were blackened by fire and pockmarked by shrapnel. A former prisoner said he had narrowly escaped the same fate because he was transferred to an adjacent hangar due to overcrowding in the prison and that up to 120 people were crammed into that space at one time.

"It reached up to 120 or 130 individuals," said Moayed Burani.

The space of captivity did not exceed 20 square metres.

"People were crammed in together on top each other. I heard they (Gaddafi forces) sealed the door and fled. They brought hand grenades and exploded them there," he said.

Based on such accounts and a huge crater just metres from the prison, residents fear up to another 80 bodies could have been buried in a mass grave nearby.

"This is the greatest massacre in recent history," said Dr Khaled Ali, an anaesthetist.

The bodies of three men covered in winter blankets and flies lay just outside, as a fourth eyeless corpse rapidly decomposed in the heat. One of them had his ankles bound with green rope.

A blue bulletproof jail van must have held a second group of prisoners. Inside it, an empty bottle of water swayed on a string and a metal bowl, with traces of orange porridge, hinted at the harsh conditions imposed on captives.

Majid Fayturi, a fighter from one of the Misrata units involved in the storming of Brigade 32, blamed the grisly massacre on Gaddafi forces pushed to retreat by rebels.

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