Last Updated: Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:35 am (KSA) 07:35 am (GMT)

Counting the dead in Libya's Benghazi hospital

Some estimates say Libya violence kills 2,000
Some estimates say Libya violence kills 2,000

A Libyan girl ran screaming in hysterics from the Benghazi hospital morgue on Thursday, her face streaming with tears. Staff tried to calm her.

She had just identified the mutilated body of her brother.

"Most families have still not found their lost relatives," said doctor Jamil Howedi, head of the radiology department.

"From time to time we find them (buried) in the street," Howedi told Reuters in the morgue where there were many charred bodies. "They burned those men, when people got to the (army base) they found they had been tied up and burned alive because they had refused to fight," he said.

Benghazi, like towns and cities stretching across the eastern half of Libya, are no longer in the control of leader Muammar Gaddafi. Many Libyans are celebrating the end of his 41-year rule in their region. Many are also counting the dead.

"I am a witness to this criminal act, from the first time, the first day, I saw 13 bodies, one with a bullet in his neck. The other case a bullet in the spine. Even the injured are handicapped now, all 13 to 20 years," the doctor said.

"I ... have medical records and I know from hospital records that 220 to 250 people died," he said.

Charred bodies

There are no definitive figures for the dead in what was often a violent uprising against Gaddafi's rule in this area.

France's top human rights official said up to 2,000 people might have died so far in the revolt. It is probably still rising. Fighting continues in areas closer to Tripoli.

Families face gruesome sights identifying their loved ones.

A pungent smell of disinfectant, mixed with the odor of charred bodies, hung in the air of Howedi's Benghazi hospital. It has been renamed "Hospital of the Martyrs".

In one area of the hospital morgue lay a collection of body bags, half opened. Eight charred bodies were exposed.

A crowd, some of them relatives of the missing, looked down at them. A doctor pulled open a big, old, metal body drawer to reveal the corpse of a young man. The torso was mutilated. Some relatives fumed with anger. Others just sobbed.

"You must see this. You must show this cruelty to the world," one bystander, watching the morbid scene, said.

Fighting was fierce in parts of the city, particularly around a military base to the south. Gaddafi loyalists retreated to the base. Witnesses said troops fired on protesters from the inside. Now, most of the base's buildings are burned out shells.

This is not the first time Benghazi's residents have lost family members to Gaddafi's forces.

Near a tent set up on a seafront street, hundreds of photos have been placed picturing the "Martyrs of Abu Selim", a reference to a massacre in a Tripoli prison in 1996. Many of those killed came from Benghazi.

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