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03.06.2020 Libya

HRW accuses Haftar forces of mining suburbs of Libya capital

By AFP
Fighters loyal to the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar in an area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli on June 1.  By - (AFP)
LISTEN JUN 3, 2020
Fighters loyal to the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar in an area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli on June 1. By - (AFP)

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces of laying Russian landmines in residential southern suburbs of the capital.

"An armed group and affiliates fighting for control of the Libyan capital Tripoli appear to have used antipersonnel landmines and booby traps there in late May 2020," the New York-based rights group said.

"Fighters affiliated with the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, including foreign forces, appear to have laid mines as they withdrew from southern districts of the city."

The report came days after the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it was "extremely concerned about reports that residents of the Ain Zara and Salahuddin areas of Tripoli have been killed or wounded by Improvised Explosive Devices placed in/near their homes".

HRW said the antipersonnel mines discovered in Tripoli in May were "of Soviet and Russian origin".

Pro-Haftar forces have been battling since April last year to seize Tripoli from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), in fighting that has left hundreds dead and forced 200,000 to flee their homes.

Haftar's fighters in May pulled back from areas of southern Tripoli that they had held for months, following key defeats on other fronts.

On Wednesday, residents of Mashrou al-Hadba, a suburb heavily damaged in fighting, were able to return after an absence of more than a year, accompanied by security experts to keep them out of mined areas, health ministry spokesman Amine el-Hashemi wrote on Twitter.

Haftar's rapid advance on Tripoli last year stalled to a bloody stalemate on the edges of the capital.

In recent weeks, GNA forces armed with Turkish drones and air defence systems have taken back a string of coastal towns and a key airbase.

Haftar is supported by neighbouring Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia.

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