Last updated: 5 March, 2012

Libyans hold funerals for 163 from mass grave

Thousands of Libyans massed in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday for the burial of 163 people whose bodies were found in a mass grave, an AFP journalist said.

The funeral comes a day after the bodies were transferred to Benghazi from the desert town of Bin Jawad, east of Sirte, where toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi was captured and killed on October 20.

Mourners poured into Benghazi’s Tahrir Square, cradle of the revolt that spread from east to west and eventually overthrew Kadhafi’s regime, where they held prayers in remembrance of the fallen “martyrs.”

Relatives demanded a quick trial for Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam, who stood by his father and sought to squash the popular uprising with brute force. He is now in the custody of a militia made up of former rebel fighters.

“The revolutionaries of Zintan must hand over Seif al-Islam immediately” for trial, Mohammed al-Darnawy, who came to bury two of his brothers, told AFP.

The dead were honoured at the cemetery with copious floral wreaths and patriotic flags.

Omar Abdelkhalek Obeidi, a forensic expert and chairman of the committee on missing persons, said only 70 of the dead had been successfully identified.

He said the committee had obtained a fatwa from the Mufti, Sheikh al-Sadiq al-Gharyani, and permission from the attorney general, Abdelaziz al-Hassadi, to reopen the graves in the event of identification developments.

Obeidi said on Sunday the bodies were those of rebels killed between February and March 2011 in Brega, Ras Lanuf, Bin Jawad and on the outskirts of Sirte.

He added that some showed signs of having been executed.

The exhumation was carried out with the assistance of the United Nations and in cooperation with the ministry of martyrs, wounded and missing people.