MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Libyans filed past Muammar Gaddafi’s decomposing body for a fourth day on Monday, to see for themselves that the dictator 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 near Gaddafi’s home town 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. Islamic tradition 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. NTC leaders want Gaddafi buried at a secret location so the place does not become a shrine.
Gaddafi’s tribe, centred on 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.
“There are different views,” said an NTC official in Misrata. “Some people want them buried in the invaders’ cemetery in Misrata,” he said, referring to a place outside the city near the sea where hundreds of fallen Gaddafi fighters have been buried with some dignity and respect.
“Some people want to hand them over to his tribe, but we have some demands. Many people have been kidnapped and killed by people in Sirte since the 1980s. We asked them to give those bodies back. Since then they have been quiet,” said the official who asked not to be named.
NTC head Mustafa Abdel Jalil said the council had formed a committee to decide the fate of Gaddafi’s corpse and would follow guidance from Libya’s religious authorities.
The official Egyptian news agency said Libya’s office for fatwas, or religious decrees, had declared Gaddafi was not a Muslim as he had denied the teachings of Prophet Mohammad and so should not be given an Islamic funeral.
Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan in Cairo; Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Louise Ireland and Alastair Macdonald