A 15-centimetre-thick steel door lies on the ground at the entrances to an underground detention complex in the main military and presidential centre in Benghazi, Libya. Image Credit: Mick O'Reilly/Gulf News

Benghazi: A massive bomb-proof bunker complex housed Muammar Gaddafi's chemical weapons here, residents said as they gave Gulf News an exclusive look inside a top security lair in Libya's second city.

"Gaddafi hated Benghazi because he knew we were all against him," explained Khalifa who has first hand knowledge of the complex, having been detained here.

"We hated him, and he stayed in this secure military complex whenever he came to Benghazi."

The sprawling military complex, covering an estimated 10 acres close to the port area of the city, fell to anti-Gaddafi protesters after bitter fighting. Most of the soldiers fighting for the dictator were from the south of the country, Khalifa said.

In one area there were one-metre by one-metre square cells, whose only source of light was a small hole high in the wall. Heavy grey steel doors with foot-long bolts kept the detainees locked inside, and a bucket was used for sanitation.

"There was no water, no food, nothing," Khalifa said, who was held in one of these cells for two weeks. "If you told a joke about Gaddafi, you ended up here." Here is a dark cell-lined corridor, lined by the cubes, where up to 30 detainees could be held at any one time.

In a whole dug beside a large bunker, Khalifa said some 40 prisoners were found, some of whom were dead.

"He treated us like animals," Khalifa said. "He was like Hitler. He needs to be put on trial and hung - he and his sons."

Across a courtyard, in a building meant to look like a walled villa from the outside, an inner courtyard was the detention centre for young women. Around the floor of the high-walled centre complex, Gulf News counted at least 20 syringes and medical tubes used for intravenous injections.

"Gaddifi's men would drug the young women, rape them and make pornographic videos," Khalifa said.

Gulf News saw many items of women' clothing, lingerie, underwear, and cast off high-heeled shoes, handbags and makeup materials laying around. There were remnants of mattresses in the centre courtyard, and each of the larger cells around it had heavy bolts securing each room.

Beneath a mosque was built a secret detention chamber.

Across a blast-proof tunnel lay a large storage area for munitions and armoured vehicles, trucks and tanks. The area was about the size of two football fields.