Pro-government forces in Libya say they have unearthed another mass grave in the northern town of Tarhuna after fighters loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar deserted it. There were nine bodies in the grave, they said Monday in a Facebook post.
Tarhuna lies between the capital Tripoli and Misrata about 80 kilometers (50 miles) inland from the Mediterranean coast. It was a critical stronghold for Haftar’s rebels. The town was where the rebels staged an offensive to seize the capital from the Government of National Accord (GNA). The UN recognizes GNA as the legitimate political power in Libya.
Earlier this month, GNA forces said they had discovered eight other suspected mass graves, most of them in or around Tarhuna. The UN has voiced “horror” at the reports.
Monday’s statement said authorities were still searching for other potential mass graves in the wake of Haftar militia’s withdrawal. GNA forces seized back Tarhuna, Haftar’s last western stronghold, on June 5.
The 14 months of fighting for the capital left hundreds dead and forced some 200,000 people to flee their homes.
Oil-rich Libya is suffering sharp divisions and a violent conflict since the 2011 toppling of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising.
On June 22, the UN’s top rights body ordered a fact-finding mission to Libya to document violations that took place there since 2016. An International Criminal Court prosecutor also said the discovery of mass graves may constitute evidence of war crimes in the country.