Libyan rebels bury unknown foes



MISRATA, Andrew Beatty- In the coastal sand dunes above the Libyan city of Misrata the bodies of three men are being prepared for Islamic burial.
Laid out under a simple shelter their blood-drenched green uniforms stand out against the alabaster-white sand as stark evidence of their violent last moments.
Around a dozen solemn men gather around the bodies, yet none of the congregation are friends or loved ones, none are here to bid the men a fond final goodbye.



Libyan rebels bury unknown foes
The dead are soldiers of Moamer Kadhafi's army, their corpses recovered from the battlefields that ring this besieged city.
The living are a band of bearded and robed volunteers determined to ensure their fellow Muslims are buried according to custom, no matter what side they chose in Libya's civil war.
For organiser Ali Drotiga these careful burials are a point of pride as well as religious devotion.
His every studied action is a direct response to mobile phone videos of rebel fighters who have been beheaded or had their corpses dumped by the roadside.
"They are Muslims, we must treat them like that," he says before turning back to the task at hand.
On a tilted wooden pallet Drotiga and other volunteers cut off the men's uniforms and carefully wash the bodies with water.
A small heap of perfumed talc is put on each man's forehead, nose, chin and on the corpse.
Gauze is put over their wounds and they are wrapped in pure white sheets tied together with three white cotton ribbons, at the feet, around the torso and at the head.
But before the sheets are pulled closed a photographer takes a portrait, and the men's belongings -- in one case just a few dinars and a red tipped bullet -- are put into a numbered bag.
After the war, Drotiga explains, the men's families will be able to come and find the remains of their loved ones.
The men are ready for their final journey.
Standing sideways to the dunes and the brilliant azure of the Mediterranean below, a young Imam stands before the bodies, faces Mecca and leads a prayer.
The bodies are taken out into a sand field where 12 rows of concrete contain more than 650 of their comrades.
Between the masonry blocks at the foot and head of each grave a finger has traced a number into the wet concrete, denoting those who could be identified thanks to papers, phone or ID cards.
As the second of the three men -- number 422 -- is lowered into a rough wooden coffin on his right side another truck arrives.
It is loaded with the bodies of three more Kadhafi soldiers.
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Saturday, August 13th 2011
Andrew Beatty
           


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