In row after row corpses lie, the grim cost of the fight for Tripoli

Civilians among the dead in the capital

The bodies lay partly covered in shrouds of tattered sheets on grey concrete floors deeply stained with blood. Some of the faces were almost serene, others frozen, mouth open, reflecting the terror of the last moments. In row after grim row lay the terrible human cost behind the battle for Tripoli.

Around 170 bodies have passed through the morgue of the Sher Zawiyah Hospital – many of them civilians with shrapnel wounds, caught up in the crossfire – as the regime and rebel forces continue their bitter struggle for control. Others appear to have been executed, with bullet wounds to the head, handcuff marks on their wrists.

Corpses have been brought to the doorway in pick-up trucks, cars, and the few functioning ambulances. A double layer of surgical masks were needed to view the corpses, seven in one room, 32 in another, decomposing in the heat. That is what the bereaved families have to do, some sobbing as they left, clutching each other for comfort.

Hashan Al-Agap had come to collect the remains of his nephew, Mohammed, who had been killed after being arrested by regime forces near Bab al-Aziziya, the fortress of Muammar Gaddafi. The 20-year old student was among eight found in the basement of a security building, all of them shot dead.

Mr Agap, 50, had driven from his home in Misrata to check on relatives in Tripoli. He was travelling with Mohammed and his two sons, Moiz and Mohab. "Our car was stopped and both Mohab and Mohammed were dragged out with guns to their faces. I tried to stop them, but they threw me back, threatened to shoot me, Moiz held me back, otherwise I would have been killed. I had to go away, to try and get help, leave the two boys behind. I was frightened for them, very frightened."

The two young men were beaten and told they would be shot for what happened at Bab al-Aziziya. During the night, Mohab escaped and phoned his father to tell him what was going on. Mohammed's body was discovered when the Gaddafi troops abandoned the building.

"I think I am in a dream now, I must wake up. These men like killing. These people make us work for year after year for pennies and then they kill us like rabbits, like dogs. We have had this for 42 years. We thought all this would now end, but the killings continue, all these lives..." Mr Agap's voice faded and he started crying. Adel Mohammed showed a photograph of his mother, Baia Al-Sophi, a woman of 62, shot dead by a sniper on Wednesday when she went out to the balcony of the family home in the Akhwakha district to call for a 13-year-old son to hurry home after a gun battle started.

"She was worried about Khalid with all the fighting that was going on. We do not know why they shot her, she was just an old lady," said Mr Mohammed, a researcher in electronics. "Of course, I am very sad about my mother. But do I wish the revolution had not taken place? No, I have thought about this, we have to bear our suffering to free our country so our children, at least, do not have to go through this."

Walking through the wards at the hospital, stopping from time to time to rest against the wall, Souma Um Rashid, just wanted to know what had happened to her 26-year-old son, Qais. "I have tried the Central [hospital] and now I am trying this one. I am praying every minute that they have brought him here. I do not want to go to the place of the dead, I do not want to go and find him there."

Abdel Razak Ramadan, in charge of the morgue, has worked at the hospital for 25 years. "From the time the revolution started we started having dead bodies brought in with bad injuries," he said. "But there were about 55 in the past six months, now we have had 170 just in this hospital alone in the past few days. We have fathers, mothers coming here every day, having to find their children. It is a very sad thing to see."

Omar Abdullah Ashur, an anaesthetist who had been working at the hospital for the past ten days, shook his head. "The sad thing is that under ordinary circumstances we could have saved some of these people," he said. "Some have come with severe injuries to the head, the chest and they would probably not have survived. But the others, we could have. That is very upsetting for us."

Dr Ashur's face was etched with weariness; he had been sleeping three hours a night. "I went home to get one night's good sleep and our house got hit by bullets. So I took my family to stay with relations, and came back here, what else could I do? I do not know how long this will go on for. We are all tired of this violence, as a people we are tired."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions