Exposed: The ‘Abu Salim Prison Massacre’ Fraud

By Martin Iqbal


Updated 27 September, 2011 – see section: ‘The meals‘.

Updated again 28 September, 2011. Click here to go to this update.


To date Libya has been subjected to decades of foreign meddling and attempts to assassinate and oust its leader Muammar Gaddafi. Throughout this time, foreign-based Libyan opposition groups and globalist propaganda mills have incessantly cited supposed atrocities committed by Gaddafi, and none is more infamous or overused than the ‘Abu Salim prison massacre’ of June, 1996. This is now being invoked yet again in an attempt to justify the brutal war being waged on the people of Libya.

The events of the ‘Abu Salim prison massacre’ are based on two reports – one from the New York based, globalist-funded Human Rights Watch, and one from the CIA-Mossad-created National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL). The backgrounds of these organisations lend them zero credibility and in addition, their reports are based on nothing more than the testimony of two people – one named and one anonymous. Openly admitted by Human Rights Watch, none of the claims made by their witness can be independently verified. On top of this, their witness states on record that he did not witness even one single prisoner being shot dead in this supposed massacre. Furthermore, as I will demonstrate, the reports are riddled with contradictions and weaknesses. All in all, these factors and the historical context that surrounds them, utterly expose the contrived nature of the ‘Abu Salim massacre’ story.

The story begins in Abu Salim prison complex, Tripoli, in June, 1996. After several successful and unsuccessful escape attempts mounted by prisoners in Abu Salim over the previous years, security was increased at the complex and living conditions worsened for the inmates.

According to the NFSL report, at “4:30 PM on Friday June 29th 1996″ (June 29th, 1996, was actually a Saturday) a prison guard named Omar Fathallah, entered a cell in order to bring food to the prisoners. Inmates had been waiting behind the door, and as Fathallah entered he was knocked unconscious by prisoners who then attempted to escape. The inmates began moving out to the courtyard of the prison, breaking the locks of other prisoners’ cells as they went:

“The prisoners continued to chase the guards out of the building and to break the locks on other cells freeing other prisoners.”

And herein lays the first, albeit relatively insignificant, contradiction. Human Rights Watch’s witness, Hussein al-Shafa’i, offered conflicting testimony – he claimed that this incident occurred on June 28th as opposed to June 29th, 1996:

“According to al-Shafa’i, the incident began around 4:40 p.m. on June 28, when prisoners in Block 4 seized a guard named Omar who was bringing their food. Hundreds of prisoners from blocks 3, 5 and 6 escaped their cells.”

As the guards were chased out of the cell blocks, one guard was left laying injured on the ground in the courtyard, whilst another was hoisted up to safety by other guards standing on the roof. The NFSL’s report here mentions that guards began firing on the inmates in the courtyard, killing 6 and injuring 11. HRW however, only mentions one death at this time – that of Mahmoud al-Mesiri. “There were 16 or 17 injured by bullets“, HRW’s witness tells us, “the first to die was Mahmoud al-Mesiri. The prisoners took two guards hostage.

With one guard laying injured on the ground in the courtyard, and Omar Fathallah having been killed by the prisoners, a negotiating team arrived at the prison to discuss the prisoners’ demands. Crucially the NFSL report does not mention the fact that Omar Fathallah was killed by the prisoners; only the HRW report does. In this deliberate omission, the NFSL report fails to even mention the fact that Fathallah died at all.

With the negotiating team having arrived at Abu Salim, the prisoners were told to designate representatives from each block. A condition of the negotiations was that the two hostages would have to be released by the prisoners. The injured guard held hostage in the courtyard was released, but Omar Fathallah had already been killed. The prisoners presented their demands to the negotiators after agreeing to return to their cells.

The ‘executed bus prisoners’

It was then that the NFSL report tells of some prisoners being herded onto buses:

“All those in need of medical attention were told to board buses that would take them to hospitals. About 120 people boarded the buses. Those who were accused of belonging to opposition groups were ordered to get off the buses. All others were taken outside the prison section to a different part of the compound.”

The report then claims that some of these inmates, but it does not state how many, were executed by Libyan army conscripts who were given ‘kill or be killed’ orders. There is no evidence for this claim, but the NFSL report cites an anonymous ‘prison guard’ who supposedly escaped and told his story:

“They were lined up and shot execution style by young conscripts whose choices were shoot, or stand with them to be shot. This was later reported by an officer, who defied orders that night and was able to escape.”

Referring to the ‘bus executions’, HRW’s report cites the NFSL report and claims that “many of them were executed“, but offers no numbers or details.

Conflicting timelines: when did the ensuing ‘massacre’ actually occur?

The NFSL report then speaks of how, in the evening of ‘Friday June 29th’ (again, June 29th, 1996, was actually a Saturday), prisoners were herded into the courtyard of the prison and then the ‘massacre’ began at 11:00pm that night.

However, HRW’s report states that Omar Fathallah was knocked unconscious and the violence erupted at 04:40pm, June 28th. Their witness then claims that the ‘herding’ happened at 05:00am on June 29th, and the ‘massacre’ then began at 11:00am that morning.

According to the NFSL, the ‘massacre’ began at 11:00pm on June 29 when hand grenades were thrown into the courtyard and firing began. HRW’s different timeline tells of how the ‘massacre’ continued from 11:00am until 01:35pm on June 29th. Then, apparently, guards began ‘finishing off’ prisoners with pistols at 02:00pm.

Al-Shafa’i did not see a single prisoner shot dead

Crucially, and this must be stressed emphatically, HRW’s lone witness, Hussein al-Shafa’i, did not see a single prisoner being shot during the supposed massacre. Conveniently however, he was able to see the green bandanas worn by the men doing the shooting from the roof:

“I could not see the dead prisoners who were shot, but I could see those who were shooting. They were a special unit and wearing khaki military hats. Six were using kalashnikovs. I saw them – at least six men – on the roofs of the cellblocks. They were wearing beige khaki uniforms with green bandanas, a turban-like thing. Around 2:00 p.m. the forces used pistols to “finish off those who were not dead,” he said.”

Not having seen the prisoners who were supposedly shot, al-Shafa’i provides HRW with an estimate of how many were allegedly killed “by counting the number of meals he prepared prior to and after the incident”. There are a number of problems with using this as a basis for calculating how many were killed. Firstly, al-Shafa’i does not state the time period over which he counted the meals. Was it the next day, or was it every day for the next month? Furthermore, there are a whole host of reasons why less meals may have been prepared after the incident. Perhaps prison logistics were thrown into chaos by the escape attempt and the killings of guards and prisoners, and as a result some meals were skipped.

Perhaps prison authorities decided to punish the prisoners for the violent escape attempt, and skipped meals (cruel as this may be).

More importantly however, are we supposed to believe that one man was responsible for preparing meals for a prison population of between 1,600 and 1,700 inmates? If one meal were to take just one minute to prepare, this would take al-Shafa’i 1,600 minutes – which is 26.6 hours. It would be literally impossible for one man to do this every day.

Moreover, al-Shafa’i claims that he was “asked by the prison guards to wash the watches that were taken from the bodies of the dead prisoners and were covered in blood”. Why did he not count the watches? This is not discussed in the HRW report.

This highly questionable ‘star’ witness who admits to not even having seen anybody get shot, then goes on to state that the dead inmates’ bodies were put into trenches and concrete was poured on. Subsequently, the bodies were moved, he tells us:

“They threw the bodies into trenches – 2 to 3 meters deep, one meter wide and about 100 meters long – that had been dug for a new wall … In 1999 security officials poured cement over the trench, he claimed, although he believed that they later had the bodies removed.”

The idea that the bodies were moved is a convenient excuse for the 1,200 bodies not being found at Abu Salim – an eventuality that seems inevitable considering the laughably shaky nature of the whole story. The unelected lackeys and terrorists of the NTC are already trying to rekindle this fable with the help of the media.

Conclusion: 1996 and the wider context

It is eminently clear that the ‘Abu Salim massacre’ was nothing of the sort. Even the NFSL admits that what transpired was a violent escape attempt as it mentions guards being attacked and cell locks being broken. As a result of this a guard was killed, one was taken hostage, and a number of prisoners were killed as prison guards reacted to quell the violence. This is corroborated in HRW’s own report where it quotes ‘Khaled’, the head of the Libyan Internal Security Agency:

“Prisoners had captured some guards during a meal and taken weapons from the prison cache. Prisoners and guards died as security personnel tried to restore order,”

The charge that 1,200 were killed is supported by no physical evidence whatsoever, and on top of this, the single named witness on which the story hinges, did not even see a single shooting. Furthermore, as demonstrated, the testimonies of both witnesses are simply not credible and conflict with each other.

For wider context we must consider an important factor. 1996 was a time when MI6 was mounting attempts to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi using ‘al Qaeda’ extremists to whom they paid a large sum of money. Abu Salim prison – and this is openly stated by the NFSL’s report – was used to house “members of a group from the city of Derna“. Derna is the very city mentioned in the infamous West Point report which found it to be a hotbed for extremist ‘al Qaeda’ fighters. These extremists had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan against the occupying forces. Furthermore, these very groups are now being supported by NATO in Libya in its attempt to oust Gaddafi – as they have been for at least the last three decades as indicated by Newsweek in 1981.

In fact, the HRW report cites the head of the Libyan Internal Security Agency as follows:

“According to Khaled, more than 400 prisoners escaped Abu Salim in four separate break-outs prior to and after the incident: in July 1995, December 1995, June 1996 and July 2001. Among the escapees were men who then fought with Islamist militant groups in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, he said.”

It is not just probable but highly likely, that the violent break-out mounted at Abu Salim in June 1996 (which was partially successful) was related to the ongoing MI6 attempts to kill Gaddafi using the very groups that were being held in that prison. Ever since that time, foreign-backed Libyan opposition groups such as the NFSL, and globalist propaganda mills such as Human Rights Watch, have distorted and manipulated the truth about ‘Abu Salim’, in an attempt to both rally the extremist fighters opposed to Gaddafi, and justify the brutal, illegal war of aggression now being waged on Libya.


The alleged Mass Graves of Abu Salim contain nothing but Camel Bones