Out of the seven refrigerated containers in Misrata, three have broken down. "We've had to redistribute the bodies among the fridges that still work," said Tuwaileb.

But he said it has been a struggle, especially during the North African summer and constant power cuts. "So a backup has to be ready and we have to refuel it regularly," he said.

Opening one of the containers released a thick cloud of vapour that reeked of dead bodies and expanded on contact with the warm air outside.

Inside, white body bags smudged with blood and mud lay on metal shelves.

DNA

"The bags are numbered and classified. Each body has its own file, DNA sample... documents or other signs collected with each body," said Tuwaileb.

In January, 60 more bodies were added to the collection, of jihadists killed in air strikes south of Sirte in which Washington said its stealth B-2 bombers fired some 100 laser-guided missiles.

Tuwaileb said all the files have been transferred to the prosecutor general's office in Tripoli to decide if and where the bodies are to be buried.

Based on documents found on the bodies, most the dead jihadists came from Tunisia, Egypt and Sudan, with some from Libya, but no families have come to Misrata to claim them.

"We don't know if countries have contacted the prosecutor general to recover the bodies of their nationals, but as far as we're concerned nobody's come here to try to identify the bodies," said Tuwaileb.

The prosecutor's office, contacted several times by AFP, declined to comment on the case.

"In the meantime, the bodies will stay here. The problem is that some of the companies who lent out the refrigerated containers want them back," he said.

"Every time I tell them they can take the fridges if they want, but with the contents."

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