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Retreating Gadhafi forces killed civilians, survivors say

Retreating loyalists of Moammar Gadhafi killed scores of detainees and arbitrarily shot civilians over the past week, as rebel forces extended their control over the Libyan capital, survivors and a human rights group said Sunday.

In one case, Gadhafi fighters opened fire and hurled grenades at more than 120 civilians huddling in a hangar used as a makeshift lockup near a military base, said Mabrouk Abdullah, 45, who escaped with a bullet wound in his side. Some 50 charred corpses were still scattered across the hangar on Sunday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the evidence it has collected so far "strongly suggests that Gadhafi government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling." The justice minister in the rebels' interim government, Mohammed al-Alagi, said the allegations would be investigated and leaders of Gadhafi's military units put on trial.

So far, there have been no specific allegations of atrocities carried out by rebel fighters, though human rights groups are continuing to investigate some unsolved cases.

AP reporters have witnessed several episodes of rebels mistreating detainees or sub-Saharan Africans suspected of being hired Gadhafi guns. Earlier this week, rebels and their supporters did not help eight wounded men, presumably Gadhafi fighters, who were stranded in a bombed out fire station in Tripoli's Abu Salim neighborhood, some pleading for water.

Najib Barakat, the health minister in the rebels' interim government, said Sunday that he does not yet have a death toll for the weeklong battle for Tripoli. Hundreds have died and more bodies, some in advanced stages of decay, are still being retrieved from the streets.

Barakat said efforts are being made to identify bodies. At the least, the corpses of suspected Gadhafi fighters, especially non-Libyans, are being photographed before burial, to allow for possible future identification by relatives.

In fighting late Sunday, pro-Gadhafi elements fired Grad rockets at rebel forces gathering in the town of Nawfaliyah, not far from Gadhafi's home town of Sirte, rebels said.

Rebels gave residents there 10 days to allow rebel forces in peacefully or face an assault. A rebel spokesman said many Gadhafi loyalists have fled to Sirte and are preparing for a fierce battle.

Rebels rode into Tripoli a week ago, then fought fierce battles with Gadhafi forces, especially at the former Libyan leader's Bab al-Aziziya compound and the Abu Salim neighborhood, a regime stronghold.

As the rebels consolidated their control and Gadhafi fighters fled, reports of atrocities began emerging over the weekend.

Human Rights Watch said it has evidence indicating regime troops killed at least 17 detainees in an improvised lockup, a building of Libya's internal security service, in the Gargur neighborhood of Tripoli.

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