Abductions, killings make Libya’s chaos even worse

Violence is forcing people to seek protection from local militias, strengthening fighters’ influ­ence.

Libyan militia fighters manning checkpoint in city of Sabratha

2016/07/31 Issue: 66 Page: 9

The Arab Weekly
Lamine Ghanmi

TUNIS - Libya’s lawlessness has tak­en a gruesome turn with rival militias, vying for power and control of the country’s oil wealth, tor­turing and killing people. Criminal gangs in areas with no oil wealth are grabbing the limited cash held by ordinary Libyans by kidnapping people for ransom.

The gangs often dump or hang the bodies of victims whose fami­lies cannot pay ransoms, adding another layer of misery to the life of Libyans suffering cash shortages and electricity cuts.

Tripoli, where a UN-brokered gov­ernment arrived four months ago from exile to try to restore stability, is being called the “capital of kid­nappers”. At least two kidnapping victims, including a 14-year-old girl whose family was unable to pay a 500,000 Libyan dinar — $350,000 — ransom, have been killed recently, according to police reports.

In the western area of Warshefa­na, abductions are so rife that a local satirist wrote on a website: “If War­shefana kidnap gangs deposit their cash money in the banks, Libya’s cash shortage could end in a wink.”

In one of the latest killings, a 65- year old man was tortured and mur­dered. Saied Shariha, from Kabou in Nafousa Mountain, was hanged after his family was unable to meet the $560,000 ransom.

The violence is forcing people to seek protection from local militias, strengthening the fighters’ influ­ence, experts said.

Suspected militiamen tortured and killed 12 loyalists to former dic­tator Muammar Qaddafi after they were freed from a militia-run prison in Tripoli. The bodies, scattered in several areas of the capital, were found with bullet wounds to their heads and signs of torture, Libyan Justice Ministry spokesman Wes­sam al-Saghir said.

In Benghazi and other eastern parts of Libya, the battle is for con­trol of oil and gas fields and ports from which those resources are ex­ported.

The bodies of 14 civilians were found July 23rd in a landfill in Beng­hazi’s Lathi neighbourhood, which is under control of the forces of Gen­eral Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the rump of Libya’s national army in the east. In Benghazi’s Abu Atni neighbourhood, a father and his three sons were found dead in a landfill.

Militias loyal to Haftar launched a crackdown on Islamist opponents in Benghazi after the Defend Beng­hazi Brigades said they planned to return to the city by force after they were swept out following 14 months of fighting.

UN Envoy to Libya Martin Kobler called the executions “a war crime”.

Lamine Ghanmi is a veteran Reuters journalist. He has covered North Africa for decades and is based in Tunis.

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