Another nine bodies were found in a new mass grave on Wednesday in Libya’s Tarhuna province, which was liberated from forces loyal to Putist general Khalifa Haftar.
The General Authority for Research and Identification of Missed Persons said in a statement that the mass grave was discovered in an agricultural area in Tarhuna.
Tarhuna, a strategic city about 65 kilometers (41 miles) southeast of the Libyan capital Tripoli, was under the control of the al-Kaniyat militia, which gained a reputation for its brutal tactics. Under al-Kani’s leadership, the militia had initially sworn allegiance to a previous government in Tripoli. But it changed sides in the civil war and adapted to the eastern-based forces of putschist general Khalifa Haftar in 2019.
According to official Libyan sources, Haftar’s forces and affiliated militias committed war crimes and genocide during the period between April 2019 and June 2020.
It said that the remains of nine bodies were exhumed from the grave and that there is no information about the victims’ identities so far.
With the latest discovery, two graves have been found in the past week.
Since June last year, following the defeat of Haftar’s forces in the western parts of Libya, the Libyan government has discovered about 300 bodies in mass graves in Tarhuna and south of Tripoli.
The US Treasury Department sanctioned al-Kani and his militia in November after finding them responsible for killing civilians whose bodies were found in several mass graves in Tarhuna. They also claimed that the militia had committed acts of torture, forced disappearances and displacement of civilians.
Fatou Bensouda, a former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, told the UN Security Council in November that her office worked with the Tripoli government “in relation to these mass graves”, where many bodies were found blindfolded and with clasped hands.
Libya has been worried since 2011 when a NATO-backed insurgency overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country was then divided between rival administrations in the east and west.
Haftar’s offensive in 2019, supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, collapsed in June 2020 when the Tripoli government, with support from Turkey and Qatar, gained the upper hand. A UN-mediated ceasefire was reached in October that stopped hostilities.
The oil-rich Libya is now ruled by a transitional government tasked with preparing the nation for elections in December.