Libyan authorities on Saturday discovered another new mass grave in the city of Tarhuna, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of the capital Tripoli. The grave is probably the work of militias who are connected to the putschist general Khalifa Haftar.
“Four bodies were exhumed from the grave in the Alrabet 2 project area of the city,” Lutfi Tawfiq, director of the General Agency for Research and Identification of Missing Persons, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
The city of Tarhuna, a gateway to Libya’s center and east, had been controlled for several years by the Kaniyat militia, run by the local al-Kani family, who fought alongside Haftar’s eastern illegal forces. It adopted the name Ninth Brigade when the militia merged with Haftar.
In November, the US Treasury Department sanctioned al-Kaniyat and its leader Mohamed al-Kani after finding it responsible for killing civilians whose bodies were found in many mass graves, as well as torture, forced disappearances and the displacement of civilians.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week called on Libya’s UN-backed National Accord Government (GNA) to investigate the fate of hundreds of people missing from the key city. Dozens of mass graves were found there after the withdrawal of a generally feared militia loyal to Haftar last summer.
In a statement, HRW quoted Libyan officials as saying that at least 338 residents of Tarhuna were reported missing. The majority of them disappeared during a 14-month military campaign to conquer the capital led by forces loyal to eastern Haftar, according to the report.
The UN described the discovery of mass graves around Tarhuna as a “horror” in June last year.
According to official sources from Libya, Haftar’s forces and associated militias committed war crimes and genocide during the period April 2019 to June 2020.
Since Haftar’s forces were defeated in June in the western part of Libya, the Libyan government has found about 300 dead bodies in mass graves in Tarhuna and south of Tripoli.
The Libyan government has been fighting against Haftar’s forces since April 2019 in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.
On October 23, the warring parties agreed on a ceasefire during UN mediation to pave the way for political dialogue and a solution. However, Haftar militias have regularly violated the ceasefire.