Bodies crowd Benghazi morgue

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The Independent Online

At least 24 bodies of fighters and civilians, many burnt beyond recognition, lay in the morgue of Benghazi's main hospital on Sunday.

The hospital's wards were filled with men, women and children wounded in Saturday's assault by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces on the rebels' eastern stronghold.

One doctor, Ibrahim Beheih, said that by Saturday night 32 deaths had been recorded in the hospital and 66 wounded.

"It is important for the world to see this. We have been busy since yesterday morning, we have many casualties, many dead, many waiting for surgery," he said.

A Reuters correspondent counted 24 bodies in the morgue but more may have been stored in refrigeration units. In three body bags were charred lumps that had once been people.

In one room lay eight bodies of Gaddafi's fighters. Morgue attendants said three were mercenaries from Chad or Niger.

French planes fired the first shots on Saturday in a campaign to force Gaddafi to cease fire and end attacks on civilians. The warplanes destroyed tanks and armoured vehicles in the region of Benghazi.

The city was bombarded by Gaddafi's forces on Saturday.

Relatives wailed as they identified bodies in the morgue.

Mohammed said his brother Ibrahim was one of the dead and that he had been handcuffed and shot in the head by Gaddafi troops.

In a hospital bed lay Khaled Bashir, 42, with a gunshot wound to his abdomen. He said he had been driving in his car when fired on by Gaddafi's forces.

Nearby, a mother and two sons were all unconscious.

The head nurse, Nora Azir, said the father was dead. They had been hurt as Gaddafi forces swept into the outskirts of Benghazi on Saturday morning, she said.

"All the wards are full," she said.