June 15, 2011 / 8:29 PM / 9 years ago

In rebel Libyan city, enemy given dignity in death

* Pro-Gaddafi soldiers buried with full Muslim rites

* Coastal cemetery holds hundreds, graves dug for more

* Killed in rebel fight to reach Tripoli

By Matt Robinson

MISRATA, Libya, June 15 (Reuters) - The two bodies were so badly burned that one could not be distinguished from the other, so they were buried together in a single grave, faces turned towards Mecca in the Muslim tradition.

In all, six men who died while fighting for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were interred on Wednesday by the rebel force that killed them, in a coastal cemetery outside this Mediterranean port city that seen some of the bloodiest fighting in Libya’s civil war.

They were afforded all Muslim burial rites, as the 359 buried here before them. Workers sprinkled the bodies with camphor dissolved in water before Jemal Mohammad led them in prayer.

“They are our enemies while alive,” said Mohammad, who was in charge of the burial.

“But at the same time, they are Muslims. The religion and the instructions of our Prophet Mohammad oblige us to give them a burial ceremony as all other Muslims.”

The bodies were lowered, right side down, into sandy graves between plywood and breeze blocks.

“Maybe they were cheated by Gaddafi and forced to fight,” Mohammad said. “Only God knows their hearts.”

FRESHLY DUG GRAVES

Dignity in death is of deep importance in Islam.

That it should be so carefully observed in war speaks to the nature of Libya’s 3-month-old conflict, which has pitted Libyan against Libyan over the fate of one man, Gaddafi and his 41-year rule.

Rebels often conflate their enemy into the single figure of the Libyan leader.

On the coast, rebels from Misrata are fighting to advance the 200 kilometres (125 miles) to the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

They wrested the city centre from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in fierce street fighting, then pushed them back to break weeks of artillery bombardment. Misrata is a shell of the affluent trading hub it once was.

The men buried on Wednesday were killed near the Dafniya front line some 20 kilometres west of the city, where rebels are edging slowly through palm trees and olive groves towards Zlitan, the next town on the road to Tripoli.

Each grave is given a number, matching whatever belongings were found on the bodies, should relatives one day come to retrieve them.

Some are identified, others are left unknown. In a separate graveyard are six graves holding the bodies of non-Muslims.

On Wednesday, workers prepared four more graves and as evening fell, heavy artillery pounded the Dafniya front.

“The war goes on, and we expect to receive more bodies everyday,” Mohammad said.

“It’s our duty as Muslims to respect them.”

Editing by Mark Heinrich

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