Forces of the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) have discovered many mass graves and a container filled with bodies following the liberation of the city of Tarhuna, located around 140 kilometers (87 miles) southwest of the capital Tripoli from putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s militia, the Interior Minister of Libya stated late Wednesday.
“We discovered many terrible crimes committed by the militias that controlled the city of Tarhuna,” Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha stated on Twitter, adding that the crimes were now being documented.
“We found a container, inside which were prisoners who had been burnt alive. We also found a number of mass graves, where according to our initial reports, dozens of people were buried alive,” he continued.
“Those militias must be held accountable for their hideous crimes and the politicians as well as military leaders, who have provided these militias with cover, must also be brought to justice,” the minister said.
Bashagha further underlined that the Libyan people will not accept Haftar to be part of their future.
The GNA’s Libyan Army liberated the town of Tarhuna shortly after entering the city center, with little resistance from militias. Tarhuna was the main rear base for the offensive against Tripoli that Haftar's forces finally abandoned this week, retreating from their remaining positions in the southern suburbs of the capital.
Upon the liberation of Tarhuna, 106 bodies, including those of women and children, had been found in a hospital.
A written statement by the Libyan government's Burkan al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) operation said that according to initial evaluations, the victims had been executed while Health Ministry spokesman Amin al-Hashemi said there were signs of torture on most of the bodies. Images shared by the operation's press office depicted numerous body bags in the halls and rooms of the hospital.
Following the ousting of late dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya's legitimate government was founded in 2015 under a U.N.-led political deal.
Since April 2019, the GNA has been under attack by Haftar's forces, based in eastern Libya, and more than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence while many were displaced.
In the past few weeks, the GNA has made significant gains against forces loyal to warlord Haftar, supported by France, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, while some provinces announced their support for the official government after months of bombing and shelling by Haftar on civilians, hospitals and schools.
Haftar's land mines kill seven people
Haftar has long been ignoring the situation of civilians in its offensive to capture the capital and bombing even civilian settlements. Moreover, when the GNA pushed Haftar’s forces back, the militias planted land mines in the residential suburbs of Tripoli as they withdraw.
"Seven people were killed in land mine explosions in several locations in the south of Tripoli, and 10 others were wounded," ministry spokesman Amin al-Hashemi told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Those killed were four civilians and three mine-clearing experts, he said, adding that the blasts took place in the Ain Zara and Wadi Rabi districts on the southern edges of Tripoli, controlled by forces backing Haftar.
The deadly explosions in Tripoli took place days after the GNA declared itself back in full control of the capital and its suburbs after fending off Haftar's year-long offensive to seize it.
Human Rights Watch earlier this month accused pro-Haftar forces of laying Russian and Soviet-era land mines as they withdrew from Tripoli's southern districts.