Hundreds of corpses of Islamic State fighters remain stored in freezers in Libya, as that nation’s government negotiates the return of the bodies to the fighters’ home countries, a report said.
Most of the dead, shipped to a morgue in Misrata, Libya, were killed in December when Libyan forces defeated ISIS in a battle at Sirte, on Libya’s Mediterranean coast, Reuters reported.
In many cases, the fighters’ home countries – including Egypt and Sudan – have been reluctant to accept the remains because their arrival would help reveal how many of their citizens left to fight as ISIS jihadists, according to Reuters.
Officials in Tunisia have estimated that more than 3,000 of its citizens have left to join jihadists fighters in Iraq, Syria and Libya, the report said.
In the interim, Libyan authorities have documented and photographed the bodies and collected DNA samples, a Misrata law enforcement official told Reuters.
The Islamic State had captured Sirte in 2015, and held it until Libyan forces invaded in December.
Last week, Fox News reported that despite heavy losses for ISIS on the battlefield in recent months, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the terror organization’s leader, has eluded capture.
U.S. Army Gen. Raymond A. “Tony” Thomas, commander of U.S. special operations, said U.S. forces recently were close to capturing Baghdadi, but a leak to the media allowed the ISIS leader to slip away.
“The challenge we have [is] in terms of where and how our tactics and procedures are discussed openly,” Thomas said. “There’s a great need to inform the American public about what we’re up to. There’s also great need to recognize things that will absolutely undercut our ability to do our job.”