Dozens of apparently massacred bodies have been found by soldiers fighting to rout Moammar Gadhafi loyalists from the Libyan ex-leader's stronghold of Sirte.

National Transitional Council forces say they found the corpses in a handful of areas around the city, one of the final battlegrounds in the Libyan civil war that has overthrown Gadhafi's 42-year regime.

'Like it's the last chance: Just kill them and run away. Just don't leave them to tell the story' —Doctor Abdul Rauf

Many of them seem to be prisoners from Sirte's jail.

"See their hands. Their hands are tied behind their back," Lt. Hussein Abdelsalam said through a translator as he showed the sites to a reporter.

At one site, seven bodies lie on patches of burnt grass, four of them on top of each other, as if they had been dumped there. The corpses are sprayed with what look like bullet wounds.


Sirte is strategically located on the coast and divides Libya into east and west.

Abdelsalam said 42 bodies have been found overall in four different sites.

'You want to kill the story'

Abdul Rauf, a doctor who sides with the revolutionary forces, said he examined some of the dead and thinks they were probably killed by Gadhafi loyalists last weekend, as NTC troops launched their all-out assault to finally capture Sirte.  

"I think that they were people which they held, and when our fighters reached there, like it's the last chance: Just kill them and run away. Just don't leave them to tell the story," Rauf said. "It's like that.  You want to kill the story with them."  

Anis Farej, who was detained for nearly a month in the Sirte jail, said he believes the bodies are his fellow prisoners, though he could only recognize and name a few of them. One was Abdullah Ferjani, Farel said, a sheik from Sirte who was arrested because of his anti-Gadhafi stance.

Rauf said the bodies are hard to identify because they're now swollen. The ongoing hostilities have made it difficult for coroners or pathologists to attend to them.  

"The doctors now are with the people who are injured. They can't come and just run around with dead bodies and try to figure out what really happened with them and all that," he said.  

Nearly 1,100 NTC fighters were wounded and 120 killed in the past week alone in fighting around Sirte, according to doctors at the forces' field hospital. The Red Cross has said it expects to find more dead when it gets access to the city.

The apparent slaughter in Sirte comes after the discovery in August of up to 153 charred bodies in a small warehouse next to one of Gadhafi's military complexes in Tripoli, the capital. The building was said to be a makeshift jail for people who helped the opposition during the uprising against the deposed Libyan leader.