TRIPOLI: Libyan rebels said they captured the last military base held by forces loyal to strongman Moamer Qadhafi in the Tripoli area on Saturday.
“Nato struck and then our special forces attacked,” fighter Nurdin Yussef Misrata, 36, who took part in a dawn assault on the base of 32 Brigade commanded by Khamis Qadhafi, a son of the leader, told AFP.
He said the battle in Salaheddin, a suburb five kilometres (three miles) south of Tripoli, raged for seven hours.
The complex of mustard-walled buildings had its walls holed by bombs, its roofs caved in and windows blasted open.
Within hours of the end of the battle, rebel fighters had completely emptied the storage rooms of weapons from Germany, the United States, Russia and Italy, an AFP correspondent at the scene said. Casualty figures were not immediately available.
Meanwhile, charred skeletons of some 50 people were found in a makeshift prison next to a military base abandoned by elite troops loyal to Moamer Qadhafi in southern Tripoli on Saturday, an AFP reporter saw.
Local residents discovered the remains after rebel forces took control of the base of the 32 Brigade commanded by Qadhafi’s son Khamis in the district of Salaheddin.
“I am shocked, I never imagined I would see a scene like this in Libya,” Dr Salim Rajub, who lives near the base, told AFP, indicating they were victims of a massacre last Tuesday.
“On August 23, we heard gunfire before breaking the (Ramazan) fast and people shouting for help, but there were snipers outside and nobody could get close,” he said.
“These men were killed by Kalashknikovs and hand grenades, and then they were burned.” Residents said there were a total of 53 bodies in the building, which showed signs of damage. An AFP correspondent counted 50.
In a related development, Libyan rebel leader Mustafa Ahmed Jail promised late on Saturday that Moamer Qadhafi and officials of his regime would be given a fair trial.
“We call on Moamer Qadhafi and his associates to surrender so we can protect them and spare them illegal execution,” the head of the National Transitional Council told a news conference in Benghazi.
“We guarantee them a fair trial, whatever their position,” he said.
Asked about the International Criminal Court, which has issued indictments against Qadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and his intelligence chief, Jalil said the ICC was complementary to Libyan justice.
The ICC handles serious cases where the courts of the defendant’s own country cannot or will not act.
“We have issued appeal after appeal for them to appear, that we will protect them and that they will be tried,” Jalil said.
“Those who are afraid and do not respond will be alone responsible for their security.” The rebels have offered a $1.7 million dollar reward for Qadhafi’s capture, dead or alive.
Jalil added that officials of Qadhafi’s regime who do not voice their support for the rebellion will not risk their lives or citizenship, but they will have no political role to play in the new Libya.