Nisreen lies listless curled under a blanket, an armed rebel guard at her door.
She looks vulnerable, and younger than her age – 19. She has soft features, a heart-shaped face, large brown eyes and full lips.
She speaks haltingly, often falling into a tortured silence, unable to verbalize her thoughts and emotions as haunting images of what she did play out like a curse in her mind.
“One of them had facial hair, like this.” She gestures in the shape of a goatee around her mouth, recalling the face of one of the young men she shot dead.
Nisreen became an executioner for Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. She admits she murdered 11 rebels, all prisoners of the Gadhafi regime. (CNN is not identifying Nisreen with her full name because of her experiences in Gadhafi’s all-female brigade.)
“They brought one person in at a time and they said shoot him,” she tells us, her voice quiet, her words chilling. “There was someone on either side of me and one behind and they said if you don’t shoot we will shoot you.”
She pauses, sliding back into that horrific moment.
“I would turn my head away and shoot. I saw the blood dripping, it just kept flowing.”
She says she was told the rebels wanted to rape women and pillage the capital.
Nisreen was a member of the female unit of Gadhafi’s popular militia. She says she was forcibly taken from her mother – who is battling cancer – by the head of the unit, a family friend. She says the two argued, about what she doesn’t know. That was around a year ago.
She was trained to handle weapons and then kept by her commander at the headquarters of the 77th Brigade, right next to Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound. She and the hundreds of other women who made up her unit were kept isolated, cut off from their families.
Some of the women with her were ardent supporters of the regime. She says she wasn’t, but she couldn’t leave.
“My brother came and tried to get me out,” she says, but he was threatened and told to leave.
When the uprising began in February, she says her female leader summoned her to see the 77th Brigade commander. He raped her.
“I screamed,” she tells us. It made no difference. She was summoned twice again and raped by two other commanders. Her leader told her she had to bear it.
She says all the women in her unit were raped, but they were forbidden to speak about it.
As the rebels closed in on Tripoli, she and two other young women were assigned to the Bousalim neighborhood, where some of the heaviest fighting was taking place. It was there that she was forced to be an executioner.
They were all so young,” she says of her victims before sliding into yet another heavy, burdened silence.
She escaped by jumping out of a second-story window as a firefight erupted behind her. She was captured by rebel fighters and brought to the hospital.
Although the rebels plan to put her on trial, many of them seem to pity her, as do the hospital staff.
One of her doctors, Nadia Benyounis, says she was speechless when she first heard about her case.
“When I saw her, I thought that she looked like a kid. Her face is so young, innocent, totally innocent,” she says. “She lost her life.”
“She was manipulated by Gadhafi forces, unfortunately. Gadhafi manipulated us all.”
Benyounis says Nisreen was robbed of everything — her dignity, her self-worth, her family — and turned into a killer.
“She is silent all the time.” Benyounis tells us. “I watch her closely, she tries to sleep all the time to escape from this reality.”
But there is no escape.
Nisreen’s mother is in Tunisia getting cancer treatment. Nisreen says they spoke on the phone and she told her everthing. “My mother was very upset,” she says.
Her father doesn’t know. The family fears he is too ill to bear the news.
Her eyes well with tears.
“All I want is to go home,” she says. “I want my mother.”
Kadafi compound becomes a big attraction
Visitors throng Moammar Kadafi’s Bab Azizia compound in Tripoli. ‘I don’t think any Libyan believed we would ever see this place. But the day has finally come,’ says one self-appointed tour guide.
Revolutionary voyeurism was booming Tuesday inÂ Moammar Kadafi‘s former home and headquarters, where euphoric visitors honking horns and firing Kalashnikov rounds seemed unanimous on one point: The man who ran Libya for more than four decades must be captured or killed.
“We need to cut off the head of the snake,” said Ahmed Digin, a rebel standing guard at the sprawling Bab Azizia compound, now open to a public delirious with the unexpectedly rapid fall of Libya’s long-feared leader. “That is the only way to convince people that there is no use in resisting the revolution.”
The rebels have in effect ended Kadafi’s lengthy rule. But finding him, insurgent leaders say, would quell remaining opposition and erase any doubt that Libya has embarked on a new era.
Many suspect that Kadafi is hiding in his hometown, Surt, a loyalist enclave about 225 miles east of the capital. The rebel leadership on Tuesday issued an ultimatum: Anti-Kadafi forces will give officials in Surt until Saturday – after the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the conclusion of the Muslim fasting month ofÂ RamadanÂ – to surrender or face attack.
Ali Abdul Salaam Tarhouni, a representative of the rebels’Â Transitional National Council, told reporters that rebel leaders “have a good idea” where Kadafi is.
“We don’t have any doubt that we will catch him,” said Tarhouni, who declined to provide additional details.
Libya’s interim leadership demanded that neighboring Algeria repatriate members of Kadafi’s family who have fled there this week, among them his wife, daughter, two sons and grandchildren, reportedly including one born in the Sahara desert as the family made its way into exile. The rebels want to put family members on trial along with Kadafi.
The news that much of the ex-leader’s family had escaped focused people’s interest on the question: Where is Kadafi?
To many here, Surt is the obvious answer.
“You know, they say the elephant always goes back to his home to die,” said Mohammed Hejazi, a rebel wearing a red beret at a beachside base that was once a private resort for the Kadafi family.
Others speculate that Kadafi may be in the southern desert town of Sabha, which could facilitate escape to sub-Saharan Africa, where Kadafi cultivated robust support. Additional possibilities include loyalist enclaves such as the city of Bani Walid, 95 miles southeast ofÂ Tripoli. Then there are those who believe Kadafi is hiding in the capital.
“I think he’s right here in Tripoli, maybe in a tunnel somewhere,” ventured Digin, the rebel at Bab Azizia, who was decked out in classic revolutionary garb: camouflage flak vest, jeans, the de rigueur Kalashnikov and a black beret covering his stringy hair.
These are days of euphoria for many Libyans, despite the string of post-Kadafi hardships, including severe shortages of running water, power and gasoline. Such problems and other pressing issues, including the proliferation of weapons here and the uncertain status of the future government, remained in the background for many cavorting about Kadafi’s former home turf.
“Yes, there is no water, no electricity, but these are things that will be fixed,” said Othman Abdullah Masri, 50, an electrical engineer who took his wife and three children to join the revelry at Bab Azizia. Long a site of mystery and dread to most Libyans, it now is a kind of ersatz Kadafi theme park. “What counts now is that our children will not have to live with Kadafi.”
A steady queue of traffic crawled along at an entrance to the vast complex, which was overrun last week by rebels in a violent battle. Insurgent gun trucks, like something out of a “Mad Max” fantasy, waited along with station wagons crammed with children and grandparents. Awed civilians stood in the watchtowers where machine gun emplacements once kept guard.
Sightseers lined up at entrances to the compound’s vast tunnel complex, where metal ladders lead to concrete-lined passages that seemed to go on for long distances, in various directions.
“Kadafi poured Libya’s money into infrastructure here at Bab Azizia, but not anywhere else,” said Mohammed Ramadan, 30, a clothing salesman.
Gone is one of the regime’s signature monuments: a massive golden-hued hand crushing a U.S. fighter jet. Rebels removed the sculpture, which Kadafi built to commemorate the 1986 Reagan administration airstrikes in retaliation for alleged Libyan involvement in a Berlin nightclub bombing targeting U.S. servicemen.
“Come, I’ll show you Kadafi’s home,” said Hisham Jawahari, 40, an airport dispatcher who has become a self-appointed tour guide.
Jawahari leads visitors through a once-luxurious dwelling now charred and acrid with the smell of smoke and fire fromÂ North Atlantic Treaty OrganizationÂ bombings. The home was not ostentatious, in the style ofÂ Saddam Hussein‘s garish palaces in Iraq, but, rather, comfortable and expansive.
Amid the debris are mementos of the Kadafis’ lives, including handwritten notes and photographs. Souvenir hunters scavenged through the piles.
“I don’t think any Libyan believed we would ever see this place,” said Jawahari. “But the day has finally come.”