April 14, 2021

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Suspects arrested over killing of militia leader in eastern Libya

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Authorities arrest two suspects over the killing of Mahmoud al-Werfalli, who was wanted by the ICC for war crimes.

Libyan authorities have announced increased security measures in the second-largest city, Benghazi, and the arrest of two suspects in connection with the killing of a militia leader wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a member of forces loyal to eastern renegade commander Khalifa Haftar, was shot dead on Wednesday along with his cousin in the city, cradle of the country’s 2011 revolution.

Security is precarious in Benghazi, eastern Libya, with frequent tit-for-tat violence and executions.

It was plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 and toppled and killed longtime strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

For years, the country was split and controlled by two competing administrations: An internationally-recognised government in the western city of Tripoli and a rival administration in the east allied with Haftar.

Fighting only came to a halt last year and a formal ceasefire in October was followed by the establishment of a unity government led by interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.

The ICC issued a first warrant for al-Werfalli’s arrest in August 2017, accusing him of having ordered or personally carried out seven separate rounds of executions of 33 people in 2016 and 2017.

In July 2018, the ICC issued a second arrest warrant for al-Werfalli for his “alleged responsibility for murder as a war crime”.

Colonel Ali Madi, the head of Benghazi’s military prosecution linked to Haftar, identified the suspects in al-Werfalli’s killing as Mohamad Abdeljalil Saad and Hanine al-Abdaly.

The latter is the daughter of lawyer and rights activist Hanan al-Barassi, who was gunned down in broad daylight last November in Benghazi.

Military authorities in Benghazi said al-Abdaly was arrested while “threatening a fellow citizen with a handgun”, according to video footage of the alleged incident.

Possession of the handgun in itself is considered a crime, they said.

Meanwhile, the head of security in Benghazi, General Abdelbasit Bougheress, told reporters on Saturday that on “instructions” from Haftar, all shops must install surveillance cameras before Tuesday.

Cars with tinted windows will be banned in the city, as well as vehicles without licence plates, he added, among other measures.

Earlier this month, the bodies of 11 people bearing gunshots wounds were found at the southern entrance of the city, a security source said, suggesting they had been “executed”.

In October 2017, the bodies of 36 suspected fighters, including 19 foreigners, were found in a vacant lot in the city bearing signs of torture.

A year earlier, the bodies of 10 young Libyans were found in a rubbish dump in Benghazi.

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