Another nine bodies were found in a new mass grave Wednesday in Libya’s Tarhuna province, which was liberated from forces loyal to putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
The General Authority for Research and Identification of Missing Persons said in a statement that the mass grave was discovered in an agricultural area of Tarhuna.
Tarhuna, a strategic town some 65 kilometers (41 miles) southeast of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, was under the control of the al-Kaniyat militia, which gained a reputation for its brutal tactics. Led by al-Kani, the militia had initially sworn allegiance to a former government in Tripoli. But it switched sides in the civil war and aligned with the east-based forces of putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar in 2019.
According to official Libyan sources, Haftar's forces and affiliated militias committed war crimes and acts of genocide in the period between April 2019 and June 2020.
It said the remains of nine bodies were exhumed from the grave and there is no information about the identities of the victims so far.
With the latest discovery, two graves have been found over the past week.
Since June last year, following the defeat of Haftar's forces in the western areas of Libya, the Libyan government has discovered around 300 bodies in mass graves in Tarhuna and south of Tripoli.
The United States Treasury placed al-Kani and his militia under sanctions in November after finding them responsible for killing the civilians whose bodies were discovered in several mass graves in Tarhuna. They also alleged 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 United Nations Security Council in November that her office was working with the Tripoli government “in relation to these mass graves,” where many bodies were found blindfolded and with hands tied.
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country was since split between rival administrations in the east and the west.
Haftar’s 2019 offensive, 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 U.N.-brokered cease-fire was reached in October that stopped hostilities.
Oil-rich Libya is now ruled by a transitional government tasked with preparing the nation for elections in December.
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