Gaddafi's men try to obliterate traces of massacre in Zawiya

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The Independent Online

The full history of what happened in Zawiya from mid February to mid March will not be written until Libya is free.

Even then it may be dwarfed by the probably greater carnage being wrought on his people by Gaddafi forces in the other western Libyan city of Misrata. But for now it is as if the regime is trying to eliminate any memory of Zawiya's rebellion.

They cannot overnight repair the skeletal hotel on the square, or the burned-out police station, or remove the machine-gun bullet holes pockmarking apartment and office buildings.

Nor, fortunately, can the regime unwrite the courageous reporting from the city last month by Sky News correspondent Alex Crawford and two of her colleagues, who saw regime forces firing on residential buildings and ambulances causing civilian deaths, with women and children among the injured.

But yesterday there was only waste ground where the freshly demolished main mosque had once overlooked Martyrs' Square; the makeshift graves across the road where some 20 opponents of the regime were buried during the fighting have now been dug up, with no evidence that the bodies which filled them are still there.

It is a brutally clear reminder of who now controls the centre of the city from which President Barack Obama on 21 March 21 demanded the withdrawal of regime forces.

In this uneasy peace – punctured by fresh outbreaks of fighting over the past few days – it has been possible only to gain the merest glimpse of what must have been the horrors of those weeks.

At the main teaching hospital yesterday two senior doctors, made all the more reticent by the government minders in the corridors, could only hint at what it must have been like as the hospital passed between rebel and loyalist control.

We were greeted at the entrance by a woman on the local revolutionary people's committee who told us that a wounded soldier had been refused treatment during the fighting. A cautious Dr Mohamed El Araby said he had heard that but he had no proof. He was certain no one on his own team had broken the Hippocratic oath by refusing to treat those from either side. "We are all Libyans, we are all one family," he said.

For whatever the claims about foreign fighters in Zawiya, both he and his colleague, the surgical department head Masoud Deeb, were agreed that the patients who passed through casualty – many with gunshot and shrapnel wounds were Libyan.

It is impossible to be sure of numbers but as many as 100 might have died. And yes, some rebel injured had been removed from the hospital for questioning by loyalist security forces.

One day the full truth will out.