A tablet left by a mercenary for the Russian Wagner Group in Libya provides evidence of the mercenaries' involvement in the mining and booby-trapping of civilian areas and other possible war crimes, BBC News reported Wednesday.
The investigation, mostly conducted through the evidence provided by the content of the tablet, has revealed the scale of operations by the shadowy Russian mercenary group in Libya's civil war, which includes links to war crimes and the Russian military.
As the BBC reported, they also managed to gain rare access to two former fighters. One of them admitted that the group kills prisoners. "No one wants an extra mouth to feed."
One Libyan villager described how he played dead as his relatives were killed. His testimony helped the BBC team identify a suspected killer.
Describing another possible war crime, a Libyan government soldier also recalled how a comrade, his friend, surrendered to Wagner fighters but was shot twice in the stomach. The soldier has not seen him since, nor three other friends who were taken away at the same time.
Exposing the group's key role in Libya, the tablet reveals traceable fighter code names.
As reported, the tablet also provided evidence of the mercenaries' involvement in the mining and booby-trapping of civilian areas, underlining that placing land mines without marking them is a war crime.
The tablet was left behind by an unknown Wagner fighter after the group's mercenaries retreated from areas south of Tripoli in spring 2020.
With the support of Arab and Western countries – mainly Russia, France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), mercenaries and foreign fighters – putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar's eastern-based militia in Libya fought the former internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Turkey was the main backer of the GNA against the illegitimate eastern-based Haftar forces during their offensive to capture Tripoli from the legitimate government. Turkey's military support led to a GNA victory over Haftar's forces. Since then, Libya has been going through a United Nations-led political process in a relatively stable and peaceful environment.
The founded tablet's contents include maps in Russian of the front line, giving confirmation of Wagner's significant presence and unprecedented insight into the group's operations.
"There is drone footage and codenames of Wagner fighters, at least one of whom the BBC believes it has identified," the report stated.
When asked about the claims by BBC, Russia's Foreign Ministry said that it is doing "its utmost to promote a cease-fire and a political settlement to the crisis in Libya."
The ministry added that details about Wagner in Libya are mostly based on "rigged data" and were aimed at "discrediting Russia's policy" in Libya.
On the other hand, one of the ex-mercenaries of Wagner told BBC that the Wagner is "a structure, aimed at promoting the interests of the state beyond our country's borders."
Formed back in 2014 in Ukraine and owned by businessperson Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group is intensely involved in several conflicts. The group made its presence most pronounced in Syria and Libya, where Russia actively participated in the civil war and reportedly used the Wagner Group as its proxy in the region. The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), on July 24, 2020, accused Russia of “playing an unhelpful role in Libya by delivering supplies and equipment to the Wagner group.”
The Wagner Group has 2,000 personnel in Libya, according to the command. Currently, the group has bases in the cities of Sirte and Jufra.
According to diplomats, there are estimated to be "more than 20,000" foreign mercenaries in Libya, and Libyan authorities, U.N. officials and world powers have demanded that these mercenaries leave.
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