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Concern about human rights violations clouded the declaration of liberation by Libya’s new leaders on Sunday.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch warned Monday of a “trend of killings, looting and other abuses” by those who fought Gadhafi after finding 53 decomposing bodies, apparently of Gadhafi loyalists, some of whom it said may have been executed by revolutionary forces.

The bodies were found on the lawn of the abandoned Mahari hotel in Sirte, and some had their hands bound. HRW researcher Peter Bouckaert said the hotel had come under the control of fighters from Misrata before the killings took place.

The condition of the bodies suggested the men were killed between Oct. 15 and 19, the group said. Bloodstains on the grass and spent cartridges indicated some were shot and killed at the spot they were discovered.

“This latest massacre seems part of a trend of killings, looting, and other abuses committed by armed anti-Gadhafi fighters who consider themselves above the law,” Mr. Bouckaert said in a statement. “It is imperative that the transitional authorities take action to rein in these groups.”

The group called on Libyan authorities to conduct an immediate investigation.

Rebel fighters in Misrata — a city that was besieged by Gadhafi loyalists for weeks in the spring, coming under heavy shelling at the time — had no immediate comment.

Gadhafi’s death paved the way for the liberation declaration, but it remains unclear what happened in his final moments.

Jibril Othman, a Libyan fighter involved in the capture, said late Sunday that when he and others placed Gadhafi in an ambulance, the former dictator had not yet suffered what Libya’s chief pathologist said was a fatal gunshot to the head.

Omar al-Shibani, a commander at the scene, told a news conference that Gadhafi had been bleeding from the head and the abdomen when he was pulled out of the pipe, but that it was unclear whether the head wound was from a gunshot.

One Gadhafi son, Muatassim, also was killed, but the former leader’s one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, apparently escaped with some of his supporters.

Associated Press writer Karin Laub in Tripoli and Rami al-Shaheibi in Misrata contributed to this report.