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Mass Grave Discovered In Libya, Linked To Prison Riot In 1996
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A mass grave has been found in Libya, near the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. The grave, found with the cooperation of former prison guards, is believed to hold the bodies of victims of a 1996 massacre and could hold as man as 1200 or more bodies. The bones and bits of clothing that have been unearthed so far are scattered over a one hundred meter radius. Stories, from former guards and those that escaped death in the prison are also beginning to surface.

The grave was revealed to the National Transitional Council by one of the former prison guards in late August and work to start excavating it has just starting uncovering how extensive it is. The NTC has stated that there will be a formal request to the international community to help identifying the victims and to deal with the enormity of the situation. There might be as many as five hundred more victims than had originally been believed with estimates ranging from 1200 to 1700. It has also been suggested that many of the bodies have been damaged in some way before they were buried which may make identifying them even harder. On Sunday, the media was shown to the site with several of the victims’ families also showing up, hoping for some clues to their long held questions.

It was late June of 1996 when prisoners in the Abu Salim prison rioted, angry over the poor conditions of the prison itself and the limited visits they were getting from their families. In an act of aggression, the prisoners seized a guard and then escaped their cells. The riot was brief, with other guards, stationed on the roofs shooting at the prisoners who were out in the open. According to a former prisoner that escaped the massacre, security staff stopped the shooting and brought in prison officials who negotiated a deal with the prisoners, asking them to all return to their cells. The prisoners were then brought outdoors, handcuffed, blindfolded and shot.

Moammer Gadhafi’s former government officials have denied that this is true and refuse to acknowledge that the killings happened. In addition to the grave, it has been revealed that several of the families of alleged victims filed complaints against the ousted regime some time in 2007 and were promptly offered money for their silence. It is not known if any of the families accepted the money, however most of them refused, calling the offer nothing more than a bribe. Those family members held protests every Saturday in Benghazi, one of the many cities where the rebellion began.

Moammer Gadhafi and many of his top officials, as well as a number of his family members are being sought on international arrest warrants in relation to crimes against humanity. It is unclear whether this discovery will result in more such charges being leveled or if they will serve as evidence.

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