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Libya: Mass graves found in strategic city of Tarhuna

Haftar commits ‘crimes against humanity’, says Libyan interior minister

Aydogan Kalabalik and Ekrem Biceroglu   | 11.06.2020
Libya: Mass graves found in strategic city of Tarhuna

TARHUNA, Libya

Mass graves have been found in the city of Tarhuna, the last stronghold of warlord Khalifa Haftar before it was liberated by the Libyan army last week.

The Press Office of the Libyan government's Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation shared images of the mass graves.

“So far, two bodies have been exhumed. The region is full of corpses,” Lutfi Tevfik Misrati, the head of an office investigating disappeared people in the country, told Anadolu Agency.

“We think that there are 10 to 12 bodies in another grave in the field. Graves were found at five or more different points,” Misrati said.

Health authorities will perform autopsy for the dead bodies and the necessary steps will be taken for their burial, he added.

The Libyan Red Crescent officials said an investigation was launched in the region and they asked support from the military prosecutor's office and the office investigating disappeared people.

Later in the day, the Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha announced that Haftar’s militias burned some prisoners in containers, and buried tens of others alive in mass graves, according to initial reports.

Libyan security forces documented many “crimes against humanity” committed by Haftar’s militias in the city of Tarhuna, Bashagha said in a statement released by the social media account of Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation.

For its part, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called for launching investigation into the incident. 

"UNSMIL notes with horror reports on the discovery of at least eight mass graves in past days, the majority of them in Tarhuna," UNSMIL tweeted. "International law requires that the authorities conduct prompt, effective & transparent investigations into all alleged cases of unlawful deaths." 

UNSMIL urged investigators "to promptly undertake the work aimed at securing the mass graves, identifying the victims, establishing causes of death and returning the bodies to next of kin." 

The mission stressed readiness to provide support as required. 

Libya on Friday announced that it had found 106 bodies, including women and children, in a hospital in Tarhuna soon after it was liberated from Haftar’s forces.

A written statement by the Burkan Al-Ghadab Operation said that according to initial evaluations, the victims had been executed.

Health Ministry spokesman Amin al-Hashemi said there were signs of torture on most of the bodies.

The internationally recognized Libyan government has been under attack by Haftar's forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

The government launched Operation Peace Storm in March to counter attacks on the capital and recently regained strategic locations, including Al-Watiya airbase and Tarhuna.

* Writing by Zehra Nur Duz in Ankara.

Libyan officials discovered a mass grave site in Libya’s Tarhuna city

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