The bodies are scattered around a grassy square next to Moammar Gadhafi's compound of Bab al-Aziziya. Prone on grassy lots as if napping, sprawled in tents. Some have had their wrists bound by plastic ties.
The identities of the dead are unclear but they are in all likelihood activists that set up an impromptu tent city in solidarity with Gadhafi outside his compound in defiance of the NATO bombing campaign.
It is impossible to know who killed them, but the discoveries raise the disturbing specter of mass killings of noncombatants, detainees and the wounded.
Between Bab al-Aziziya, seized by rebels on Tuesday, and the Gadhafi stronghold neighborhood of Abu Salim, where fighting raged Thursday, AP reporters saw about two dozen bodies Thursday. Five or six were in a tents erected on a traffic circle that housed the activists and were decorated with the flags of many African nations.
One had an IV in his arm, and another body was completely charred, its legs missing.
At least a dozen other bodies were found in a grassy area and a canal nearby. Several of the dead had been shot in the head, with their hands tied behind their backs. A body in a doctor's green hospital gown was found in the canal. The bodies were bloated.
One of the dead had a strip of cloth in bright green, the national color of Gadhafi's Libya, tied around his wrist. The man was darker skinned than most Libyans. Gadhafi had recruited fighters from sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the rebel Military Council of Misrata, a western port city, prisoners held by Gadhafi forces at Metiga air base in Tripoli were locked up and had grenades thrown into their cells. The council said rebels have so far retrieved 13 badly burned bodies.
Gadhafi's regime held thousands of political prisoners.