Gaddafi body rots as wrangling continues
24 October 2011, 15:26
Libya - Libyans filed past Muammar Gaddafi's decomposing body for a fourth day on Monday, keen to see for themselves that the fallen strongman was dead, while talks dragged on among emerging local factions over disposing of the corpse.
Fighters guarding the darkening body and those of Gaddafi's son Mo'tassim and his former army chief had placed plastic sheeting under them as fluids leaked into the market cold store in Misrata, where they had been taken after their capture and killing in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte on Thursday.
With the door constantly opening to allow a procession of onlookers, in a grim parody of the lying in state typically accorded to deceased leaders, the refrigeration unit was failing to prevent a rapid decomposition and guards handed out surgical face masks to visitors to shield them from the stench.
Gaddafi and his son died after being captured, wounded but alive - some of their final moments captured on video.
But few Libyans are troubled about either how they were killed or why they are being kept exposed to public view for so long, something against Islamic tradition which normally dictates burial within a day.
"God made the pharaoh as an example to the others," said Salem Shaka, visiting the bodies on Monday. "If he had been a good man, we would have buried him.
"But he chose this destiny for himself."
Another man, who said he had driven 400 km (250 miles) to see the bodies, said: "I came here to make sure with my own eyes ... All Libyans must see him."
The killing of fallen autocrats is far from a novelty - in Europe in living memory, similar fates befell Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania in 1989 and Benito Mussolini, who had created modern Libya as an Italian colony a decade before he died in 1945.
However, some of the anti-Gaddafi rebels' foreign allies have expressed disquiet about the treatment of Gaddafi both after his capture and after his death and worry that Libya's new leaders will not uphold their promise to respect human rights.
The burials have been held up by wrangling between the emerging factions within the National Transitional Council over where they should be interred.
The NTC wants the bodies buried in a secret location to prevent the grave becoming a shrine for Gaddafi loyalists. But authorities in Misrata, a city whose siege by Gaddafi's forces made it a symbol of the revolt, do not want the body interred under their soil.
Gaddafi's tribe centred around the city of Sirte where he made his last stand has asked for the body so they can bury it there. Gaddafi requested to be buried in Sirte in his will.
One NTC official said authorities were negotiating with Gaddafi's tribe for them to acknowledge the bodies and for them then to be taken away to buried elsewhere in secret.
An NTC official in Misrata said authorities in the city were still awaiting instructions from the interim government.