Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi deployed special squads which held suspected opponents in shipping containers, tortured them for information about insurgent networks and disposed of their bodies in unmarked graves in a campaign to smash the revolt against his rule.
Evidence gathered by Reuters in the provincial town of Khoms shows an organised system of repression with methods including delivering electric shocks to suspects’ genitals, keeping them for weeks in baking heat with only a few sips of water a day, and whipping them with an electrical cable while their hands were bound with plastic ties.
It was all part of a deliberate strategy, said Nabil Al-Menshaz, an official in the rebel council which took over Khoms after Gaddafi’s rule there collapsed last month. “They wanted to frighten the people, so if anyone was thinking of going over to the rebels, they would change their minds,” he said.
The brutality of Gaddafi’s forces in the capital, Tripoli, in the final, chaotic days before rebels overran the city has been well documented. Dozens of bodies were left lying in the streets, and witnesses described prisoners being massacred before their gaolers fled. Thousands more were killed in battles in cities like Misrata and Zawiyah.
But accounts from Khoms paint a different, and in some ways even more sinister picture. Months before the rebel victory, and out of sight of the outside world, Gaddafi was operating a system of torture – separate from the army and police – that was so well-organised the units has their own command structures and bureaucracy.
On a wall at a construction site just outside Khoms that one of the units used for detaining suspects, pro-Gaddafi forces had scrawled in red crayon the name of their unit: “Soqur Al-Fatah” – or “Hawks of Al-Fatah,” a reference to the 1969 Al-Fatah Revolution that brought Gaddafi to power. Underneath that, in the same handwriting, someone had written the words: “Death Group.”
Al Jazeera reports:
A large convoy containing between 200 and 250 Libyan armoured vehicles has crossed into Niger.
Military sources from France and Niger told the Reuters news agency that the convoy, escorted by the Niger army, arrived in the northern desert town of Agadez on Monday.
Amid the reports about the convoy, Libyan opposition fighters have been holding talks with tribal leaders in Bani Walid to enter the town peacefully.
They are also negotiating with some tribes in Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, to lay down arms.
Monday’s convoy included officers from Libya’s southern army battalions and pro-Gaddafi Tuareg fighters, and likely crossed from Libya into Algeria before entering Niger, the sources said.
The French military source said he had been told Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam might be considering joining the convoy en route to Burkina Faso, a landlocked West African state which has offered Gaddafi and his family asylum and has a border with Niger.