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7 October 2017 | Libya

More than 3,000 migrants arrested in Libya smuggling hub

AFP
African migrants detained by Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord at a shelter in Sabratha on October 7, 2017.  By MAHMUD TURKIA (AFP)
African migrants detained by Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord at a shelter in Sabratha on October 7, 2017. By MAHMUD TURKIA (AFP)

Sabratha (Libya) (AFP) - A force allied with Libya's unity government in the people-smuggling hub of Sabratha has detained more than 3,000 migrants, a security official said on Saturday.

"We arrested 3,150 illegal immigrants of different Asian, Arab and African nationalities," the force's commander Bassem Ghrabli said.

His force said Friday it had driven a rival militia, led by the head of a former people smuggling network, out of the city after three weeks of fighting.

The clashes left 39 people dead and 300 wounded, according to the unity government's health ministry.

A fighter from the security force loyal to Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord guards the ancient theatre in Sabratha on October 7, 2017 A fighter from the security force loyal to Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord guards the ancient theatre in Sabratha on October 7, 2017

The fighting also damaged schools, hospitals and UNESCO-listed archaeological treasures in Sabratha, 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of Tripoli.

Following the ouster and killing of long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed 2011 revolution, the city became a major hub for clandestine migrants seeking a chance to head to Europe.

Taking advantage of a security vacuum, some local smugglers controlled whole sections of the city and even built their own landing piers, equipped to launch dozens of migrant boats a day.

The Government of National Accord has struggled to impose its authority in a country where dozens of militias hold sway and a rival government backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar controls much of the east.

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