TRIPOLI, Libya — Two dozen bodies lay in a traffic circle on Friday not far from Moammar Gadhafi's Bab al Aziziya compound, mute and pungent testimony to the carnage that has taken place here.
The dead apparently had been pro-Gadhafi fighters, but they had not gone down fighting. Some had been shot inside their tents, possibly asleep, without shoes on. One had been shot inside an ambulance and another had been shot inside a field hospital, still hooked to an intravenous drip.
Others had gunshot wounds in the back of their heads, fueling speculation of executions by rebel fighters. Some of the dead lay in front of a large billboard bearing a picture of Gadhafi, one of the few such displays remaining in the capital, underscoring the apparent prevailing sentiment of the neighborhood's residents.
If there were witnesses to how the men died, they had yet to tell their stories.
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On Friday, anti-government rebels secured the Abu Salim neighborhood adjacent to Bab al Aziziya, marking their victory with a burst of celebratory gunfire that rocked the area about 4 p.m. It was another step in the rebel push to take control of Tripoli that each day since Sunday has seen the rebels come a little closer to vanquishing what remains of Gadhafi's loyalist forces.
The fighting was far from over, however. NATO aircraft bombed Tripoli's main airport, which remained in loyalist hands, and also fired missiles at what was described as a headquarters in Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, 300 miles to the east. There was also fighting in western Libya, where rebels took control of a key border crossing to Tunisia.
Gadhafi remained at large.
But Tripoli seemed quieter than it had been in previous days, and the end of the battle for Abu Salim allowed a view of the horrors that had taken place, both those of recent days as well as others from longer ago.
Former inmates at the notorious Abu Salim prison, where in the best of times conditions were said to be deplorable, returned to recount their last few days in detention.