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UN 'concerned' about clashes, blackout in east Libya

By AFP - Oct 10,2023 - Last updated at Oct 10,2023

TRIPOLI — The United Nations expressed concern on  Monday about fighting between rival factions and a communications blackout in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, controlled by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Communication lines have been shut down since Friday when clashes broke out in the Salmani residential area of Benghazi between Haftar's forces and those of rival Colonel Al Mahdi Al Barghathi, according to local media and social media accounts.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it was "concerned about the armed clashes in Benghazi, which have resulted in unverified reports of civilian casualties and the continued disruption of communications".

It called on Libya's eastern authorities to "urgently restore telecommunications in Benghazi, as they have been cut since the fighting began".

Barghathi — a former defence minister in Libya's Tripoli-based administration — and several of his loyalists were arrested and brought to an unknown location, media said in reports that AFP was not immediately able to verify.

The colonel had recently returned to Benghazi after years in exile, and the reported arrests came following a campaign by pro-Haftar media labelling him and his supporters a "cell of saboteurs".

The fighting came a month after floods left more than 4,000 dead in Libya's east, mainly in the city of Derna, inflaming popular discontent against the authorities.

Since a 2011 NATO-backed popular uprising led to the overthrow and killing of veteran dictator Muammar Qadhafi, Libya has been beset by years of fighting involving myriad tribal militias, and foreign mercenaries.

Libya now remains split between a UN-backed government based in the capital Tripoli run by Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, and the rival eastern-based administration backed by Haftar.

Dbeibah asked the public prosecutor on Monday to open a "full and transparent" investigation into the events in Benghazi to hold accountable "those who put civilian lives as well as social peace in danger".

Calling the reported events "exceptional", he condemned the "armed clashes in a residential neighbourhood" and "the deliberate and total cutting off of communications networks... isolating Libya's second-largest city from the rest of the word".

 

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