Gadhafi's Underground Dungeons Exposed

No lights, no chairs, no beds, just a plastic pipe for air.

BENGHAZI, Libya, March 1, 2011— -- The hole in the ground is drawing a crowd of gawkers because even in Benghazi, Libyans are amazed at the cruelty of their beleaguered leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The hole leads to an underground dungeon inside a government compound that was feared and avoided by the people of Benghazi. After chasing Gadhafi's loyalists from the city, the two room cinder block cells were discovered by people who heard voices coming from beneath them.

Al Sha'beh, who had been a soldier in the Libyan army for 26 years before defecting to the ranks of the rebels 10 days ago, told ABC News Gadhafi's officials used to put prisoners in one of several vault-like underground jails.

"They used to put prisoners there and forget about them", he said. "They would die and you'd just find skeletons. They would never come out alive."

One of those who came to see the cells today was Abdullah Ali, a Libyan engineer. "It is the worst kind of punishment," he said pointing to the dusty ground where the prisoners were entombed. "Gadhafi is a bad man, frightening man. He has no feeling to the people."

The dungeon was discovered by Libyans who were touring the Benghazi's government compound, a secret world where no one knew what really took place behind these windowless walls. No one had been allowed anywhere near it.

Sha'beh brought his four children to walk through the burnt wreckage of the compound where Gadhafi used to live when he visited Benghazi. Look, he has so many houses here, he told ABC News and his children.

The former soldier said Gadhafi used to sleep in his tent underground because he was paranoid something would happen to him. Then he asked if we had seen the underground prison.

We set off to find the cells. As we made our way through the debris we stumbled upon a warren of tunnels, too dangerous to go into to find out where they led. Just outside the main building, on a sweeping expanse of concrete, we found a hastily dug entrance to the underground prison easily missed if not for guidance from local residents.

A narrow hole in the ground was the only way in, an extremely tight fit to get through. When the revolutionaries took over Benghazi they found the underground prison.

Gadhafi's Underground Prison

Sky News reported the location was only discovered after residents heard sounds from below ground. They brought in digging equipment to free those trapped below. You can still see what appear to be tool marks in the dirt right outside the small opening.

Inside is a cramped and frightening tableau. The prison itself is tiny, really just two cells with an opening connecting them. Wooden posts support the crude underground roof. The walls are made of rough concrete blocks.

The only visible sign that the prisoners were meant to stay alive is a white plastic pipe that appeared to provide air for the prisoners.

The compound itself has since become something of a tourist attraction. As we left, more visitors began arriving, citizens of Benghazi coming to see where prisoners were punished and left to die.