Daesh corpses in Misrata await fate in con­tain­ers


MISRATA: Hun­dreds of corpses of Daesh fight­ers have lain stored for the past year in a row of re­frig­er­ated con­tain­ers in the Libyan city of Misrata await­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion on their fate.

“The tem­per­a­ture must be kept at be­tween -18 and -20 (Cel­sius) for the bod­ies to re­main con­served,” said Ali Tuwaileb at a high se­cu­rity anti-or­ga­nized crime com­plex in the city.

Around 700 bod­ies have been housed at the im­pro­vised morgue ever since Daesh mil­i­tants were ex­pelled in De­cem­ber 2016 from the coastal city of Sirte that had been their bas­tion in Libya.

Two old stretch­ers un­der an im­pro­vised tent, set up in front of the con­tain­ers, serve as a lab­o­ra­tory for a foren­sic doc­tor.

“As you can see, we don’t have the means. This is where we took sam­ples for DNA tests and where we pho­tographed the corpses,” said Tuwaileb, who is in charge of the fa­cil­ity.

Due to the lack of re­sources, sev­eral hun­dred other mil­i­tant corpses have been aban­doned un­der the rub­ble in Sirte or in makeshift ceme­ter­ies dug by the rad­i­cals.

In the wake of the bat­tle dur­ing which US-led coali­tion airstrikes backed Libyan se­cu­rity forces, de­cay­ing bod­ies on the streets of Sirte gave rise to fears of epi­demic.

In a com­ment af­ter an Au­gust visit that drew strong crit­i­cism, Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son said the coun­try could one day be­come a mag­net for tourists and in­vestors once it can “clear the dead bod­ies away.”

Ac­cord­ing to Tuwaileb’s es­ti­mate, be­tween 1,500 and 2,000 mil­i­tants were buried in the Mediter­ranean city.

“We don’t have enough fridges, or we would have ex­humed all the bod­ies,” said the Libyan of­fi­cial, who pointed out that the con­tain­ers were loaned by pri­vate com­pa­nies.

Out of the seven re­frig­er­ated con­tain­ers in Misrata, three have bro­ken down. “We’ve had to re­dis­tribute the bod­ies among the fridges that still work,” said Tuwaileb.

But he said it has been a strug­gle, es­pe­cially dur­ing the North African sum­mer and con­stant power cuts. “So a backup has to be ready and we have to re­fuel it reg­u­larly,” he said.

Open­ing one of the con­tain­ers re­leased a thick cloud of va­por that reeked of dead bod­ies and ex­panded on con­tact with the warm air out­side.

In­side, white body bags smudged with blood and mud lay on metal shelves.

“The bags are num­bered and clas­si­fied. Each body has its own file, DNA sam­ple... doc­u­ments or other signs col­lected with each body,” said Tuwaileb.

In Jan­uary, 60 more bod­ies were added to the col­lec­tion, of rad­i­cals killed in airstrikes south of Sirte in which Washington said its stealth B-2 bombers fired some 100 laser-guided mis­siles.

Tuwaileb said all the files have been trans­ferred to the pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral’s of­fice in Tripoli to de­cide if and where the bod­ies are to be buried.

Based on doc­u­ments found on the bod­ies, most the dead mil­i­tants came from Tu­nisia, Egypt and Su­dan, with some from Libya, but no fam­i­lies have come to Misrata to claim them.

“We don’t know if coun­tries have con­tacted the pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral to re­cover the bod­ies of their na­tion­als, but as far as we’re con­cerned no­body’s come here to try to iden­tify the bod­ies,” said Tuwaileb. The pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice, con­tacted sev­eral times by AFP, de­clined to com­ment on the case.

“In the mean­time, the bod­ies will stay here. The prob­lem is that some of the com­pa­nies who lent out the re­frig­er­ated con­tain­ers want them back,” he said.

“Every time I tell them they can take the fridges if they want, but with the con­tents.”

An of­fi­cial walks near a re­frig­er­ated con­tainer where the bod­ies of Daesh fight­ers are kept, in Misrata, Libya. (AFP)

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