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200 bodies found at Tripoli hospital

200 bodies found at Tripoli hospital
In an image taken from footage broadcast on Al-Jazeera television, Libyans celebrate the arrest of Gadhafi's son Saif al-islam and the partial fall of Tripoli in the hands of the Libyan rebels on August 21, 2011. Libyan rebels have reached the highly symbolic Green Square in the center of Tripoli on August 22, 2011. UPI | License Photo

TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- More than 200 decomposing bodies of men, women and children have been found abandoned at a Libyan hospital where heavy fighting has raged, the BBC reports.

The British broadcaster reported Friday a correspondent found the corpses in beds and corridors at Abu Salim's hospital in Tripoli.

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Fierce clashes between rebel forces and supporters of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi prompted doctors and nurses to flee, the BBC said.

It remained unclear how the victims in the hospital died, but some residents said the regime murdered them and that some were civilians, some fighters and some apparently African mercenaries, the broadcaster said.

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Some were alive when they arrived at the hospital, while others had already died, residents said.

Resident Osama Pilil told the BBC, "These bodies have been here in the hospital for five days. Nobody has taken care of them -- to bring them to the mortuary, to identify them, to bury them.

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"We need help. It is very urgent. There is no government here. We need professional help, from the International Red Cross, because there has been a massacre in Abu Salim."

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The discovery came as the United Nations called on all sides of the fighting in Libya to exercise restraint and take steps to refrain from acts of violence and revenge.

The BBC said reports of abuses and alleged summary killings by both rebels and troops loyal to Gadhafi emerged.

National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil urged rebels not to seek revenge against pro-Gadhafi fighters.

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Amnesty International said it had "powerful testimonies" detailing abuses by both sides in the town of Zawiyah and rapes of child detainees by guards loyal to Gadhafi at Abu Salim prison.

The United Nations agreed Thursday to release $1.5 billion in Libyan assets that had been frozen to help with humanitarian needs.

On Friday, Libya's rebel leadership urged the United States and other countries to unfreeze billions of dollars, saying the funds were vital to the country's stability, CNN reported.

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"Our friends throughout the world are talking about the procedures needed to bring back peace and stability. This is urgent. But we cannot do that unless we can fulfill our duties," Jibril told reporters at an international conference in Turkey.

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Jibril said the rebel leadership needed the money for a host of reasons: to establish the new government, provide basic needs to the population, create a military and care for the wounded.

Meanwhile, fighting went on in Tripoli, now largely in rebel control. Witnesses said gunfights broke out in the capital's Abu Salim district, one of Gadhafi's few remaining strongholds in the city, and rebel forces withdrew from positions near the district to avoid rockets fired by Gadhafi loyalists.

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Late Thursday, the National Transitional Council said it moved its political base from Benghazi to the capital. A rebel spokesman said about half of the council's leadership was in Tripoli, but Jalil and other senior officials were waiting for the situation in Tripoli to stabilize before they move.

British jets fired guided missiles Thursday at a large bunker in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, the British Defense Minister said Friday.

Libyan rebels have moved one of their battle fronts to Sirte in recent days, sending tanks and rocket launchers. The pro-democracy rebels were fortifying their forces in the town of Bin Jawad in preparation for an assault on Sirte, about 60 miles to the west, officials said.

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In a statement, the Defense Ministry said Tornado GR4s fired precision-guided missiles against a headquarters bunker that housed a command-and-control center in Sirte.

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The BBC said there was no indication Gadhafi was in the bunker, or even Sirte, during the attack.

"It's not a question of finding Gadhafi; it's ensuring the regime does not have the capability to continue waging war against its own people," Defense Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC. "The attack that we launched on the bunker in Sirte last night was to make sure that there was no alternative command and control should the regime try to leave Tripoli."

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The collapse of Gadhafi's regime had led to fears terrorists could get shoulder-fired missiles from Libyan weapons depots, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Pentagon officials estimated Gadhafi troops had 20,000 portable missiles, mainly Soviet-made SA-7s from the 1970s, which may not be functional.

The Obama administration urged Libyan rebels to secure the depots and cautioned neighboring countries to be alert for potential smuggling of missiles or other munitions.

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While not publicly confirming the reports of smuggling, Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan said Libyan missiles are a concern because they are portable.

"Together with the State Department, we are working with our allies and partners in the region to help prevent the proliferation of Libya's inventory of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles," he said.

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