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Rebel Leaders Call On Libyans Not To Seek Revenge

A Libyan rebel combatant slaps a wounded man accused of fighting for Muammar Qaddafi
TRIPOLI -- One week ago, the metal warehouse was a makeshift prison for enemies of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. Now it is a death house containing about 50 scorched skeletons. Outside, another eight bodies lie on the grass, one with his hands tied behind his back.

This horror scene is in a compound, which was controlled until August 23 by the Khamis Brigade, an elite unit controlled by Colonel Qaddafi's son, Khamis. A survivor said that, as rebel forces approached, the Qaddafi soldiers shot their prisoners, and then tried to burn the bodies.

Almost daily, other massacre sites are appearing around Tripoli.

National Transitional Council leader Mahmoud Jibril has called on rebels to show restraint.
On August 28, Mahmoud Jibril, a leader of the National Transitional Council (NTC), went on Libyan state television to ask his countrymen not to take revenge.

Libya analyst Peter Cole maintains that this antireprisal policy is a cornerstone of the NTC, which now controls about 90 percent of Libya's population.

"They have been stressing this idea of, 'Do not go out, do not kill, do not try to seek retribution for someone who might have informed on your family, someone who you might think is pro-Qaddafi," he says. "'Do not take matters into your own hands. Let us do this.'"

Testing Times

But this tolerance is being tested as Libya's newly unfettered media reports on atrocities linked to Qaddafi forces.

On August 28, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said it had documented two additional mass executions. In these cases, a total of 35 bodies were found in or around a Libyan internal security building.

Human Rights Watch Regional Director Sarah Leah Whitson says evidence strongly suggests Qaddafi government forces went on a campaign of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling.

For Cole, this still may not undermine widespread support for the no-reprisal policy. "For the rebels at least, it's no surprise to them that [Qaddafi] security police would do some quite nasty stuff," he says.

Cole predicted the massacre reports would not make for a "game changing" psychological shift.

Dead bodies laid outside a hospital in Tripoli's Abu Salim district
But a new test looms. Hundreds, possibly thousands of Qaddafi's political prisoners, may be missing.

NTC spokesman Shams al-Din Ben Ali told Al-Jazeera television that, out of 57,000 people arrested in recent months by Qaddafi forces, 45,000 have not been accounted for.

He feared that many prisoners may have been abandoned days ago without food or water in underground prisons hidden around Tripoli. He appealed to prison guards to telephone authorities and to tell them where to find the secret prisons.

this report has been provided by VOA (