msnbc.com news services
updated 8/27/2011 6:32:52 PM ET 2011-08-27T22:32:52

A week after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, residents of Tripoli ventured out to begin the grim work of burying the dead in mass graves on Saturday, as evidence emerged of widespread summary killings during the battle for the Libyan capital.

The stench of decomposing bodies and burning garbage hung over the city as it faced a potential humanitarian catastrophe due to collapsing water and power supplies, shortages of medicine and no effective government.

The rebels now in control of most of Tripoli vowed to take Gadhafi's home town of Sirte by force if negotiations with loyalists in one of their last strongholds there failed.

Rebels deployed in Bin Jawad, a town about 100 miles 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 6-month-old civil war.

"What we fear most is chemical weapons and the long-range missiles," said Fadl-Allah Haroun, a rebel commander. Once NATO has cleared the path, rebels will advance toward Sirte, he said. 

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Gadhafi's whereabouts is unknown, but there has been speculation he may have sought refuge in his tribal area.

The rebels' information minister, Mahmoud Shammam, said the hunt for the defeated dictator won't hold up efforts to build a new administration and try to get the situation in Libya under control. "We are following him. We are going to find him, but we are not going to wait for everything to find Gadhafi and his sons," he said.

Video: NATO warplanes strike pro-Gadhafi forces (on this page)

Bodies all over Tripoli
As the fighting ebbed away in the capital, more and more bodies were found. Some were Gadhafi soldiers who perished, while others appeared to have been executed. Still more were found in the grounds of a hospital abandoned by its doctors.

A correspondent for Britain's Sky News said he had counted about 53 bodies left in a burned-out warehouse, where they were apparently executed earlier this week.

"It is a scene of mass murder," Stuart Ramsay said at the scene, quoting witnesses as saying 150 people were killed there on August 23 and 24 as rebel fighters fought pro-Gadhafi forces. A resident told Sky the victims were mostly civilians and had been killed by Gadhafi's forces. Story: Rebels claim to be closing in on Gadhafi

Meanwhile, rebel fighters were also trying to open up the coastal road from Tunisia to Tripoli, a major supply route. Rebels have taken control of the Tunisian-Libyan border crossing on the Mediterranean, but have been unable to ferry goods from Tunisia because regime loyalists were shelling the coastal road near the city of Zwara, about 70 miles from Tripoli, on Saturday.

A large ferry chartered by the International Organization for Migration docked in Tripoli's harbor on Saturday, unloading food, water and medical supplies. On Sunday, the vessel is to take aboard 1,200 stranded foreigners, an IOM official said.

A difficult life in Tripoli
While fighting has died down in the city, life remains very difficult.

Much of the capital is without electricity and water. Streets are strewn with torched cars and stinking garbage, because trash hasn't been collected in many neighborhoods for months. Corpses crowd abandoned hospitals. Stores are closed. Bombed planes sit on the Tripoli's airport's tarmac.

Fuel prices have skyrocketed. In Tripoli, the cost of 20 liters (about 5 gallons) has jumped to about 120 dinars ($100) — 28 times the price before fighting broke.

Shammam, the information minister, said 30,000 metric tons of fuel were being distributed Saturday, and that shipments of diesel fuel, for running power stations and water pumps, are on the way. 

He said he hoped the area's largest refinery, near the city of Zawiya, some 30 miles west of Tripoli, could be restarted soon. Mohammed Aziz, an operations manager there, said the refinery would start operating Monday.

In Tripoli's Abu Salim neighborhood, residents said gas is increasingly scarce. "We buy it mainly on the black market, mainly from Tunisians," said Osama Shallouf, a resident. "When you hear that somebody in the neighborhood is selling it, you go to his house and buy it."

The shortages come as Muslims around the world, including in Libya, prepared for a three-day holiday, Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan early next week. Traditionally, children get new clothes, shoes, haircuts and toys for the holiday.

In a string of towns stretching to the west of Tripoli, clothing stores were bustling with mothers, children in tow, shopping for Eid clothing. In Zawiya, Sabratha and Surman, the main highway was partially blocked by masses of cars parked in front of the roadside shops.

Will a post-Gadhafi Libya look like Iraq?

Rebel fighters rode into Tripoli nearly a week ago, capping a blitz offensive following months of battlefield deadlock. After days of fierce fighting that left at least 230 dead, according to hospital doctors, rebels seemed to be in control of nearly the entire capital.

On Saturday, they claimed victory over the suburb of Qasr bin Ghashir, near Tripoli's airport, following an overnight battle. Residents celebrated by firing guns and anti-aircraft weapons into the air and beating portraits of the toppled leader with their shoes. Regime troops had been shelling the airport from the area.

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Gadhafi loyalists out of Tripoli
"You can say that bin Ghashir has been liberated from Gadhafi soldiers," said Omar al-Ghuzayl, a 45-year-old field commander in charge of rebel forces at Tripoli's airport. "We've been able to push them completely outside Tripoli."

On the diplomatic front, the rebel council is pressing foreign powers to release Libyan funds frozen abroad to help it restore security, provide services and revive the economy after six months of conflict.

The United States and South Africa struck a deal on Thursday to allow the release of $1.5 billion in frozen Libya funds for humanitarian aid and other civilian needs.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Video: NATO warplanes strike pro-Gadhafi forces

Photos: Daily life in Libya's rebellion

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  1. A rebel stands on the infamous "Hand of Gadhafi" monument in the Bab Al-Azizya compound a day after numerous rebel brigades defeated Gadhafi loyalists for control of the massive military and government center, on Aug. 25, in Tripoli, Libya.

    Photojournalist Benjamin Lowy describes the scene: After breakfast our driver showed up in his white PT Cruiser and five journalists including me stuffed ourselves in. Drivers and translators are difficult to come by, so we all pooled resources and used one car.

    The first stop of the day was Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziyia compound - home to the infamous "hand crushing the plane" statue. It seems like every day some of the thousands of rebels pouring into Tripoli take their turn to pose with it and spray unrelenting celebratory gunfire in the air. The rebels have been doing that for months - shooting in the air and yelling "Allah-O-Akbar." They don't seem to understand firing discipline or the fact that what comes up, must come down. I would love to see some figures, in later years, of how many civilians and rebels were killed, not by Gadhafi, but by themselves, and in happiness. (Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Libyan rebels cringe as their position comes under fire from Gadhafi loyalist forces in the Buslim neighborhood. (Editor's note: These images were taken with a smart phone using an app that applies filters to the photography)

    Photographer's view: Our little crew decided to make our way through the southern gate of the compound and came across a massing of rebels trying to clear the Buslim neighborhood - an area known to be pro-Gadhafi. In fact, green flags still flew on most buildings and most of the buildings were painted white and green.

    Several gun battles ensued over the course of the morning as we pushed forward and fled with the rebel who were taking sniper fire, returning it. Eventually we walked back to our starting point at the roundabout at the southern gate of the Gadhafi compound. (Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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    The bodies of four recently killed pro-Gadhafi loyalists lie in an abandoned medical encampment near the south entrance of the Bab al-Aziziya compound Aug. 25, in Tripoli, Libya.

    Photographer's view: It was here that we came across dozens of bodies - at least 30 - of Gadhafi loyalist soldiers. But they weren't killed in the heat of battle. Nineteen of the bodies were in a makeshift combat hospital, the others were laid out on a grassy traffic island.

    On closer inspection though, we could see that these soldiers hands were zip-tied, basically handcuffed. Their bodies were riddled with bullets. It begs the question - are the rebels now the ones committing war crimes? Did they arrest and then execute these men? Is this retribution? Probably. Is it racism, since most of these bodies were black Africans, and the rebels - North Africans and brown- skinned - think that they are all mercenaries. (Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Rebel forces run for cover after coming under small arms fire while clearing the dangerous and pro-Gadhafi Abu Salim neighborhood.

    Photographer's view: A rumor began to circulate on the wires that the rebels had surrounded a building where Gadhafi and his sons were holding up. We felt forced to investigate. Even though it was unlikely, it's not a picture or story to miss.

    We all jumped on the back of a rebel vehicle - essentially embedding ourselves. We didn't want to risk the life of our driver, especially since his beloved PT Cruiser took one for the team and had the windshield shattered and the chassis dented by an erratically driven rebel technical. (Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A Libyan fires his weapon at a building housing a Gadhafi loyalist sniper in the dangerous Abu Salim neighborhood on Aug. 25, in Tripoli, Libya.

    Photographer's view: The rebels, and our own two feet, eventually took us to the Abu Salim neighborhood. It is possibly the last holdout of diehard Gadhafi forces.

    It was brutal. For four hours the streets of this gated apartment complex were lit up with seemingly every type of ammunition. Small arms fire from pistols and AK-47s whittled away at building facades. Machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, RPGs and mortars were used to rout out suspected snipers. (Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Suspected Gadhafi loyalist soldiers are pulled from apartments and lined up against a wall in the Abu Salim neighborhood by rebel forces on August 25 in Tripoli, Libya.

    Photographer's view: Prisoners were taken. Most seem to be black Africans, and a few Libyans. I was scared, as I watched the rebels violently arrest these men and throw them in the back of a pickup truck, that as soon as they were out of our view, they would be executed.

    Incoming sniper fire from a nearby building forced us to take cover. The untrained rebels released what I call the "death blossom" of firing in 360 degrees at pretty much everything. (Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Walid Barui, 25, breaks his Ramadan fast with a cup of water as a building burns behind him in the still violent neighborhood of Abu Salim. Baruni took up his gun and joined the revolution weeks ago, initially reluctant since he takes care of his elderly parents. He trained in the Nalut Mountains and was part of the rebel advance that swept into Tripoli. He said his parents "couldn't be prouder" with his choice to join the rebellion. (Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A Libyan rebel helps wheel out the body of his deceased comrade from a hospital morgue. (Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A Libyan rebel rips a poster of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi from the lobby of an apartment block.

    Photographer's view: Will finding Gadhafi stop this violence? Will people dance in the streets, will shops open again? More than likely yes. But now pretty much every male in Tripoli - even teens - have some sort of firearm. There will be divisions in the rebel camp, in the National Transitional Council, as they try to shape a new country. And right now, divisions are settled by war. (Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com
    Above: Slideshow (9) Daily life in Libya’s rebellion
  2. Image: A photo said to show people gathering during recent days' unrest in Benghazi, Libya. The content, date and location of the image could not be independently verified.
    AP
    Slideshow (81) Conflict in Libya
  3. Image: TO GO WITH AFP PACKAGE ON THE 40TH ANNIV
    AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (34) Moammar Gadhafi through the years
  4. Daryl Cagle / MSNBC.com, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (5) Daryl Cagle takes on Gadhafi

Explainer: Gadhafi's offspring

  • What is known and suspected about the children of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

  • Seif al-Islam Gadhafi

    Image: Seif al-Islam Gadhafi
    Ben Curtis  /  AP file
    Seif al-Islam Gadhafi in March 2011.

    Born 1972. Gadhafi's second-eldest son, by his second wife, Safia, has been alternately seen as a potentially more liberal successor to his father and as a staunch defender of the regime. The most educated and worldly of Gadhafi's sons, he has a doctorate in political philosophy from the London School of Economics and speaks fluent English, German, French and Arabic. He briefly left Libya in 2006 after sharply criticizing his father's regime, reportedly to take a position in banking outside the country. More recently, though, he has served in his father's government and acted as a spokesman for the regime during the uprising, warning in a nationally televised address in the early days of the revolt that it would likely lead to civil war. Before the unrest, Seif al-Islam worked as an architect and ran a charity that was involved in negotiating freedom for hostages taken by Islamic militants, especially in the Philippines. He also was involved in negotiations with the U.S. and Italian governments over compensation for survivors of the victims of the 1988 bombing of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. The International Criminal Court confirmed to NBC News that he was in the custody of the rebels.

  • Mutasim-Billah Gadhafi

    Image: Mutasim-Billah Gadhafi
    Juan Barreto  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Mutasim-Billah Gadhafi in September 2009.

    Date of birth unknown. Gadhafi's fourth son was a lieutenant colonel in the army and later served as Libya's national security adviser. He also has spent time living in luxury in the West, including at his mansion in the London suburbs, and hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, according to published accounts. Like other members of the family, he is an accomplished shakedown artist, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks. A July 2008 report from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli quoted a confidential informant as saying Mutasim put pressure on the chairman of National Oil Corp., Shukri Ghanem, to pay him $1.2 billion in cash and oil shipments. Ghanem told the confidant that he was considering resigning because he feared Mutasim could seek revenge if he wasn't paid, it said. Mutasim also made headlines after WikiLeaks published the classified U.S. diplomatic cables when it was revealed that he paid pop stars Beyonce, Usher and other musicians $1 million to play at a New Year's Eve party in 2010 on the Caribbean island of St. Barts. Guests reportedly included Lindsay Lohan, music mogul Russell Simmons, the band Bon Jovi and Beyonce's husband, multimillionaire rapper Jay-Z.

  • Saadi Gadhafi

    Image: Saadi Gadhafy
    Mahmud Turkia  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Saadi Gadhafi in January 2010.

    Born in 1973. Gadhafi's third son is a Libyan businessman and former soccer player — he served as captain of the Libyan national team and playing briefly with two Italian clubs before failing a drug test. In 2002, security officers at Singapore's airport seized a submachine gun, a pistol and a knife from a bodyguard as a group of at least 15 Libyans was headed to Seoul to watch the World Cup finals. Saadi also is said to harbor an interest in film. In 2005, he and brother Mutasim were reportedly at the Venice Film Festival, throwing after-parties that were described as the hottest ticket in town. More recently, though, Saadi has had business on his mind. He is currently the commander of Libya's Special Forces and has been involved in trying to put down the uprising against his father. On March 15, there were unconfirmed reports that a Libyan pilot attacked the Gadhafi stronghold of Baab Al Azizia in Tripoli, damaging it and injuring Saadi and his brother Khamis. He also has been accused of ordering Libyan troops to shoot unarmed protesters in Benghazi at the beginning of the uprising. Saadi acknowledged that he was at the barracks but denied giving orders to fire on the protesters.

  • Khamis Gadhafi

    Image: Khamis Gadhafi
    Balkis Press  /  Abaca
    Khamis Gadhafi in March 2008.

    Born 1983. Gadhafi's youngest son is a military officer who studied the art of war in Russia. He was touring the U.S. shortly before the uprising against his father began while serving an internship with AECOM, a global infrastructure company with business interests in Libya. Shortly after taking a VIP tour of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Feb. 7 — eight days before the Libyan revolt began — he rushed home to lead his elite Khamis Brigade — described in U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks as "the most well-trained and well-equipped force in the Libyan military" — in assaults on the rebel-held cities of Zawiya and Benghazi. Khamis was reported to have been killed early in the fighting, either by a Libyan pilot's suicide mission or a coalition airstrike, but he later appeared on TV.

  • Hannibal Moammar Gadhafi

    Image: Hannibal Moammar Gadhafi
    Mahmud Turkia  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Hannibal Moammar Gadhafi in October 2010.

    Born 1976. Gadhafi's fifth son is said to have a near-monopoly on oil and gas transportation in Libya. Trained as a merchant mariner, he received an MBA in shipping economics and logistics from Copenhagen Business School in 2007 and was appointed as a consultant to General National Maritime Transport Co. of Libya. Internationally, his reputation is that of a fun-loving thug. He has had run-ins with the law in Italy, France and Britain, culminating with the arrest of him and his wife, former model Aline Skaf, in Geneva on July 15, 2008, on charges that they assaulted two members of their staff. All charges were dropped, but the Libyan government retaliated against Switzerland by, among other things, recalling its diplomats, boycotting Swiss products, reducing flights between the two countries and detaining two Swiss citizens in Libya. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, the issue was resolved only after Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz traveled to Tripoli and made a public apology for the "inappropriate and unnecessary" arrest of Hannibal Gadhafi.

  • Mohammed Gadhafi

    Image: Mohammed Gadhafi
    Mahmud Turkia  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Mohammed Gadhafi in October 2008.

    Born 1970. Gadhafi's eldest son is head of the Libyan Olympic Committee and chairman of General Post and Telecom Co., which owns and operates cellphone and satellite services in Libya. He has been regarded as a possible successor to his father. Like other members of the ruling clan, Muhammad Gadhafi has been accused of extorting Western companies seeking to do business in Libya. The New York Times on March 24 quoted a U.S. business executive as saying that when an international communications company he represented attempted to enter the Libyan cellphone market in 2007, Libyan officials made it clear that the foreign company's local business partner would have to be Muhammad Gadhafi. It also quoted a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks as stating that Coca-Cola was ensnared in a dispute between Muhammad and his brother Mutasim over control of a bottling plant the soda maker had opened in 2005, forcing it to shut down the plant for months amid armed confrontations. He told Reuters on Sunday night that he had been detained and was under house arrest.

  • Seif al-Arab Gadhafi

    Date of birth unknown. Little is known about Gadhafi's sixth son, whose name translates as "sword of the Arabs." Seif al-Arab reportedly has spent most of his time in recent years in Germany. He was appointed a military commander in the Libyan army during the uprising against his father, but there were unconfirmed reports that he defected and joined the rebel Libyan People's Army. He remains on a list of regime figures whose assets have been frozen by the U.S. Treasury. There were widespread reports that he was killed in a NATO airstrike April 30, but that has never been confirmed.

  • Aisha al-Gadhafi

    Image: Aisha al-Gadhafi
    Jerome Delay  /  AP
    Aisha al-Gadhafi in March 2011

    Born 1976. Gadhafi's only daughter is a lawyer and a fashion plate, known among some in the Arab press as the "Claudia Schiffer of North Africa." Professionally, she is best known for serving on the defense teams of executed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, convicted of throwing his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush during a Dec. 14, 2008, press conference in Baghdad. She was once rumored to have been married to her father's longtime friend, former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, but that has never been confirmed. She is now married to a cousin, Ahmed Gadhafi al-Qahsi, who is a colonel in the Libyan army. The couple have three children. She rarely grants interviews, but she told The Telegraph newspaper in October 2010 that she is very close to her father, whom she described as "my father, my friend and my brother." She also said she was sleeping next to her adopted sister, Hana, in 1986 when she was killed by U.S. bombs. "I woke to the thunder of the bombs and the screams of my sister with blood spattered over me," she told the newspaper. Soon after, she was seen waving her fist to the camera. In the early days of the uprising against her father, she was reportedly on a Libyan Arab Airlines turbo-prop plane that was refused permission to land in Malta. The Libyan government later denied the report.

  • Milad Abuztaia Gadhafi

    Date of birth unknown. Gadhafi's adopted son is also his nephew. He is said to have saved . Gadhafi's life when U.S. warplanes bombed the family compound in the April 1986 U.S. air attack that was said to have killed Gadhafi's adopted daughter, Hana.

  • Hana al-Gadhafi

    Born 1985. Hana, an adopted daughter, was reported to have been killed as an infant in the U.S. airstrike on a family compound in April 1986. However, there have been reports based on leaked Swiss government documents and interviews with Libyan exiles that she is a doctor who is a powerful figure in Libya's health ministry.

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