SEPOCTDEC
19
201020112014
32 captures
27 Sep 2011 - 16 Aug 2019
About this capture
AFRICA
26 September 2011 Last updated at 14:00 ET
Libyan 'prison massacre grave' revives painful memories
People have been collecting bones from the suspected site of the mass grave
Libya Crisis
In pictures: Sirte battle
Vying for power
Where is Gaddafi?
Profile: Sirte
The discovery of what is believed to be a mass grave for more than 1,200 prisoners killed at Tripoli's Abu Salim jail in 1996 has evoked painful memories for those who have waited years to learn the fate of loved ones, the BBC's Rana Jawad reports from Tripoli.
The site is a massive, arid plot of land scattered with dry shrubs that stretches out behind the outer concrete walls of Tripoli's Abu Salim prison - a place long associated with the horrors of incarceration.
Some recently uncovered bone fragments are strewn in several locations.
It is here that officials think some 1,270 prisoners were buried after what is known as the Abu Salim massacre, one of the darkest chapters of Col Gaddafi's rule.
Under the Gaddafi regime, Abu Salim was often home to political inmates, alleged Islamists and prisoners of conscience.
The families of the 1996 victims have long been waiting for answers.
'Important discovery'
None received the remains of those believed to have been killed on that day. Only a few were given death certificates in recent years, after more than a decade of denials.
Abu Salim Prison Massacre
Some 1,270 prisoners believed to have been executed in June 1996
Guards opened fire on prisoners protesting over treatment
Many of the inmates were political prisoners jailed for alleged opposition to the regime
Protests by victims' families triggered uprising against Muammar Gaddafi
Inside Abu Salim jail
The arrest of a lawyer investigating the killings was the trigger for the first protests of this year's uprising.
On 15 February this year - two nights ahead of schedule - the families of some of the victims of the killings took to the streets in the eastern city of Benghazi, angered by the arrest of Fathi Terbil.
Others soon joined the small rally, which transformed into a call for Benghazi "to rise up" against the regime.
Many locals often whispered about the possible burial site. They believed it was somewhere near the prison, and after the fall of Tripoli last month, some went searching.
Some of the bones appeared to be too large to belong to humans, prompting scepticism among journalists.
But Dr Ibrahim Mohamed Abushima, a member of the 17 February Brigade that announced the discovery of the site, says the fact that former prison guards pointed to a burial site makes him confident that this is where the victims are buried.
"It's very important because it indicates the crimes that the regime of Gaddafi has done against the Libyan people and [how] in one day and one night he killed 1,270 people only because they demand the right for better food, better health, observation and treatment," he says.
Inside the prison where the bodies are believed to be buried
"We have to take the assistance of committees coming from outside Libya to come and help us dig [up] the people, and make the necessary tests to testify that they are the people who are missing."
For Abdel-Ati Mohamed Zahmoul, a resident of Tripoli's Souk Al Joumha who was jailed here, the prison brings back a flood of painful memories.
After wiping away silent tears, he describes how security forces took him from his home in 1989, along with his brother Faouzi.
He says they were targeted on suspicion of Islamist extremism because they frequented a local mosque and grew beards.
'Heard screaming'
It was a common story at a time when Islamist-inspired underground opposition groups, particularly from eastern Libya, were attempting to assassinate or overthrow Col Gaddafi.
The crackdown against overt piousness was severe. Many of those jailed were believed to be law-abiding citizens who prayed a lot.
Abdel-Ati made it out alive in 2001, but his brother was not so lucky.
"My brother Fouazi Mohamed Zahmoul was murdered in 1996," he says.
Mr al-Salam said his son was killed at the Abu Salim prison in 1996
"I was there. I was in another cell block, one wall away. They separated 200 prisoners from the other inmates and then we found out that all the others were executed. Some of the prison guards told us… and we heard the screaming and the gunfire.
"Six or seven months later they took some of us to clean that other block, we didn't find anyone there and we knew they were all executed."
It is a similarly poignant occasion for an elderly man from Tripoli who gives his last name as al-Salam and says he lost his son at Abu Salim.
He slowly makes his way out of the site, clutching the arm of a younger man.
He embraces and thanks one of the National Transitional Council (NTC) soldiers from the 17 February Brigade. Pausing to thank two reporters, he is asked why his son was jailed.
"There was no reason," he says. "Like everyone else, we asked for many years."
For him, and for Abdel-Ati Mohamed Zahmoul, this discovery - if confirmed - may allow them put some bones, and a burning desire for closure, to rest.
More on This Story
Libya Crisis
Features and Analysis
In pictures: Sirte battle
Images from the Libyan city of Sirte, where transitional government forces have been battling Gaddafi loyalists.
Vying for power
Where is Gaddafi?
Profile: Sirte
Hunt for Gaddafi
Chaotic fighting
Loyalists sit tight in Sirte
Islamists keen to engage
Migrant backlash
Painting Gaddafi
The final phase?
After Gaddafi
Jalil: Crowd pleaser
Waiting for the oil to flow
Quest for justice
Gaddafi: African asylum seeker?
Where are the weapons?
Conflict images
'Mass killing' sites
Islamists among rebels?
Profiles & Maps
The Gaddafi story
Gaddafi's co-accused by the ICC
Profile: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
Gaddafi family tree
Key figures in rebel council
Profile: Mustafa Abdul Jalil
Guides
Libya conflict: Q&A
Coalition firepower
Gaddafi's bolt-hole
Where do Nato countries stand?
Where is al-Qaeda?
How war is being funded
Share this page
More Africa stories
French woman held in Somalia dies
A 66-year-old French woman kidnapped from Kenya by Somali gunmen has died, say French officials.
Botswana call to change gay laws
Africa 'set to grow 5% in 2011'
Top stories
Greece MPs back austerity plans
Ohio police hunt escaped animals
Carla Bruni 'gives birth to girl'
Army chief warns US over Pakistan
New clashes at Chile mass protest
Features & Analysis
Tumbleweedville
Why the sun set on an American town called Empire
Is America illegal?
Lawyers debate the Declaration of Independence
Damned lies and statistics
Can official accounts of Mexico drugs war's death toll be trusted?
24 hours of news
Striking photos from around the world
Most Popular
Shared
Read
Ohio police hunt escaped animals
Is America built on a lie?
Viking boat burial find 'a first'
Carla Bruni 'gives birth to girl'
IQ 'can change in teenage years'
Army chief warns US over Pakistan
'Broadband giant' heads skyward
French woman held in Somalia dies
In pictures: Exotic animals escape Ohio game reserve
Egyptian defends Shalit interview
Video/Audio
Elsewhere on BBC News
New chapter
Why South Korean students are being told to scrap their textbooks and go digital
Programmes
HARDtalk
US President Bush was 'not told the truth' about waterboarding, says a former FBI agent
Services
News feeds
Mobile
Podcasts
Alerts
E-mail news
About BBC News
Editors' blog
BBC College of Journalism
News sources
World Service Trust
Mobile
About the BBC
BBC Help
Contact Us
Accessibility Help
Terms of Use
Careers
Privacy & Cookies
Advertise With Us
Ad Choices
BBC © 2011 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.
HomeUS & CanadaLatin AmericaUKAfricaAsia-PacEuropeMid-EastSouth AsiaBusinessHealthSci/EnvironmentTechEntertainmentVideo
DeliciousDiggFacebookredditStumbleUponTwitterEmailPrint
NewsSportWeatherTravelTVRadioMore