Libyan Death Squads Stalk Benghazi

Story reminds me of Iraq in 2003:
BENGHAZI, Libya — Three weeks ago, a traveler spotted a man’s body in the farmland on this city’s outskirts, shot twice in the head with his hands and feet bound. He had disappeared earlier that day, after visiting a market.
Ten days later, near the same spot, a shepherd stumbled upon the body of second man, killed with a single bullet to the forehead. Masked, armed men had taken him from his home the night before, without giving a reason, his wife said.
The men, Nasser al-Sirmany and Hussein Ghaith, had both worked as interrogators for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s internal security services, known for their brutality against domestic dissidents. The killings, still unsolved, appeared to be rooted in revenge, the families said, and have raised the specter of a death squad stalking former Qaddafi officials in Benghazi, the opposition stronghold.
The killings have unsettled an already paranoid city, where rebel authorities have spent weeks trying to round up people suspected of being Qaddafi loyalists — members of a fifth column who they say are trying to overthrow the rebels. If the violence continues, it will pose a stern challenge to a movement trying to present a vision of a new country committed to the rule of law, while potentially undermining hopes for a peaceful transition if Colonel Qaddafi surrenders power.
The rebels say their security forces are not responsible for the killings. Prosecutors here say they are investigating the attacks, and they are exploring the possible involvement of Islamists who were imprisoned by the Qaddafi government and are now settling old scores. “It’s our responsibility to protect people,” said Jamal Benour, the justice coordinator for the opposition in Benghazi. “It’s important the killers are punished. The law is most important.”
But some here dismiss talk of Islamists, saying they believe the killings are being carried out by an armed group allied with the rebels, or possibly Qaddafi loyalists pretending to be.
Last week, about a dozen men wearing balaclavas and carrying guns arrived at the house of Youssef al-Tobouli in three pickup trucks. At the time, Mr. Tobouli, a former internal security prison guard who had defected to the rebel side, was at the store picking up car parts. His terrified relatives called friends, and in the gunfight that followed, the room Mr. Tobouli shared with his wife and three children was destroyed by fire.
The attackers were eventually routed, and though they did not identify themselves, they left behind a Mitsubishi pickup truck with “February 17th” — the day Colonel Qaddafi’s opponents mark as the beginning of their revolt — painted on the side, Mr. Tobouli’s cousin said.
“I am very sorry to say that,” said the cousin, Eissa al-Tobouli, referring to the markings on the truck. He added that his cousin was part of a group of former Qaddafi officials who registered their names with rebel officials in Benghazi, on orders from the new authorities to make their defections official. “He paid the price for being in internal security,” the cousin said.
There may have been other attacks. Dr. Omar Khalid, a forensic pathologist at Jalaa Hospital in Benghazi, said the hospital had received at least a dozen bodies of executed men, though it was not clear whether they had worked for the government. The authorities are also investigating the executions of Qaddafi soldiers, said Ali Wanis, the Benghazi district attorney.
One victim, whose throat was slashed, has been in the morgue at Jalaa Hospital since mid-April, unidentified. When his body was found in the Guwarsha area outside Benghazi — near where the bodies of Mr. Sirmany and Mr. Ghaith were found — his feet and hands were bound with rope, the morgue’s manager said.
The killings in Benghazi are taking place in a city that otherwise seems safer with each passing day. Police stations burned during the February revolt have reopened. Legions of young volunteers have recently taken to the streets, to sweep and pick up the trash.