Tripoli: Evidence indicates that loyalists of Muammar Gaddafi killed at least 17 detainees and arbitrarily executed dozens of civilians as rebels moved into Tripoli, a New York-based human rights groups said on Sunday.
Reporters touring Tripoli have found clusters of decomposing corpses in several areas of the capital, including a roundabout near Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizya stronghold.
"The evidence we have been able to gather so far strongly suggests that Gaddafi government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling," said Sarah Leah Witson of Human Rights Watch.
Since rolling into the Libyan capital a week ago, rebels have fought fierce battles with regime loyalists, but by the weekend had largely pushed them to the outskirts of the city.
The rebels now control most of Libya, but Gaddafi remains at large.
Moussa Ibrahim, Gaddafi's chief spokesman, called a news agency in New York late Saturday and said Gaddafi is still in Libya. Ibrahim said he himself is in Tripoli and that he saw Gaddafi on Friday.
Gaddafi is offering to talk to the rebels about forming a transitional government, said Ibrahim, identified by his voice. Gaddafi's son al-Saadi would lead the negotiations, Ibrahim said.
In the past, Gaddafi referred to the rebels as "thugs" and "rats”. The rebels have said they will not negotiate with Gaddafi, who ruled Libya with an iron fist for 42 years.
Instead, rebel fighters are preparing for an assault on Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, should negotiations with tribal elders for a peaceful surrender fail. Rebels deployed in Bin Jawad, a town about 100 miles (150 kilometres) east of Sirte, said they are waiting for NATO to bomb Scud missile launchers and possible weapons warehouses there.
Earlier this month, two Scuds were fired from near Sirte, a first in Libya's six-month-old civil war.
In battle-scarred Tripoli, residents were struggling with severe shortages of fuel, water and electricity and the stench of growing mounds of garbage filled the air.
Fuel prices have skyrocketed. In Tripoli, the cost of 20 litres (about 5 gallons) has jumped to about 120 dinars (USD 100) — 28 times the price before fighting broke.
Mahmoud Shammam, the rebels' information minister, said he hoped the area's largest refinery, near the city of Zawiya, some 30 miles (50 kilometres) west of Tripoli, could be restarted soon. Mohammed Aziz, an operations manager there, said the refinery would start operating on Monday.
Meanwhile, a large ferry chartered by the International Organisation for Migration docked in Tripoli's harbour, unloading food, water and medical supplies. On Sunday, the vessel is to take aboard 1,200 stranded foreigners, an IOM official said.
The killings by Gaddafi troops took place in the past week, as rebel fighters gradually took control of Tripoli, the Human Rights Watch report said.
Osama Al-Swayi said he survived a massacre at a building of the Libyan Internal Security service in the Gargur neighbourhood on Monday. Al-Swayi said he had been detained by soldiers from the Khamis Brigade, commanded by one of Gaddafi's sons, two days before the shooting. Twenty-five people were detained in the building, he said.
On Monday, detainees heard rebels advancing and shouting "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is great" he told Human Rights Watch.
"We were so happy, and we knew we would be released soon," he said. "Snipers were upstairs; then they came downstairs and started shooting. An old man (and another person) was shot outside our door. (The rest of us) ran out because they opened the door and said, "Quickly, quickly, go out."
He said the soldiers told them to lie on the ground. He said he heard one soldier saying, "Just finish them off”. Four soldiers fired at the detainees.
"I was near the corner and got hit in the right hand, the right foot and the right shoulder. In one instant, they finished off all the people with me ... No one was breathing. Some of them had head wounds," he told the rights group.
Human Rights Watch also collected testimony from witnesses who said they saw Gaddafi troops arbitrarily kill civilians, including a doctor and another man pulled from an ambulance at a checkpoint.
First Published: Sunday, August 28, 2011, 16:37