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‘Dreadful’ Conditions Found in Tripoli Hospital as Body Count Rises

August 26, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JIM LEHRER: And to Libya, where rebels are taking and holding more territory, but there remains stiff resistance from loyalists of Moammar Gadhafi, who still eludes capture.

We begin our coverage with a report from Alex Thomson of Independent Television News in Tripoli.

ALEX THOMSON: The odd smoldering vehicle and a few rebel fighters hanging this morning in Abu Salim, a day of prayer, this, in a district now quiet, but battered.


Yesterday, the rebels said they’d take this place from Colonel Gadhafi’s last loyalist snipers, and they did.


ALEX THOMSON: Prisoners emerging from this chaotic fighting, and some reports that some such prisoners were killed before they had a chance to be dealt with properly.

We spoke exclusively to the rebel commander who’s led much of the fighting in Tripoli.

Do you think that the remaining Gadhafi forces will give up soon in Tripoli? Will they surrender soon?

ABDEL HAKIM BELHADJ, Military Council (through translator): I think so. They have no choice but to surrender or die. If anybody is still with Gadhafi, we tell them now to surrender and give up their weapons, no other choice. The war is over, and we deal with these small groups of gangsters.

ALEX THOMSON: At that dealing comes the great human cost. Abu Salim Hospital today, and the last injured, bewildered, terrified patients are being evacuated by the Red Cross.

BRIDGET COMNINOS, International Red Cross: We are just helping this hospital to evacuate their wounded.

ALEX THOMSON: What are the conditions like?

BRIDGET COMNINOS: They are dreadful. The conditions are dreadful.

ALEX THOMSON: What we have seen here this morning is the Red Cross evacuation of the last few wounded people leaving. Abu Salim Hospital is one vast and chaotic mortuary. There are bodies everywhere, mostly men of fighting age, but I have seen two bodies of children. And I have counted at least 75 thus far.

There is no doubt that the anti-Gadhafi rebels have prevailed at Abu Salim, but today, in this awful place, we saw at what cost.