Men loyal to Khalifa Haftar reportedly dug up dead bodies and defiled the remains after fighting in Benghazi. Video shows mean exhuming a grave in Benghazi.
East Libya forces affiliated with the army of General Khalifa Haftar exhumed the bodies of rival fighters and burned and crucified their bodies, according to Arabic media and videos posted on social media.
According to the reports, Haftar’s forces targeted the graves of military leaders of the rival Benghazi Shura Council (BSC).
The reports on Sunday came a day after the east Libyan forces announced that they had captured the final holdout of their rivals in the southwest of Benghazi, ending weeks of resistance by fighters camped in a cluster of residential buildings.
LNA fighters celebrated by exhuming the dead bodies of enemies, including their senior leader, Jalal al-Makhzoum, before parading them through town.
The National Commission for Human Rights in Libya (LNHCR) called the actions of LNA forces a war crime.
“This act is far from being a little human. It is a war crime that should be punished,” it said in a statement.
Makhzoum, who was buried six days ago, was exhumed, crucified and paraded across the city while Haftar’s forces cheered on, reported Al Jazeera Arabic on Sunday.
According to the reports, the LNA forces led by army general Wanis Abu Khamada then hung Makhzoum’s body at the gate of a LNA military camp in the city.
Makhzoum had reportedly led BSC forces in an operation against the Haftar’s LNA forces in Benghazi 2014, where the BSC managed to take control of several LNA military camps.
According to Al Jazeera, an unidentified number of graves belonging to BSC members were also dug out and the bodies crucified by the LNA forces the operation.
The eastern-based LNA has been waging a campaign in Libya’s second biggest city for nearly three years and still faces pockets of resistance in two northern neighbourhoods, despite making big gains since early last year.
Milad al-Zwai, spokesman for the LNA’s special forces, said on Saturday the siege at the “12 blocks” site ended when rival fighters tried to escape at dawn.
He said 23 were killed and six arrested while seven LNA troops were killed and at least six wounded.
This act is far from being a little human. It is a war crime that should be punished
LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said as many as 40 of the LNA’s opponents had been killed. The figures could not be independently verified.
Dozens of family members had also been in the besieged buildings, where according to humanitarian groups they had run out of food and water.
Efforts to evacuate the families had largely failed. Mismari said six families were detained by the LNA and would be investigated. It was not immediately clear how many of the LNA’s opponents or their families had escaped.
The LNA also said it had lost a MiG-21 fighter jet over the Benghazi district of Sabri on Saturday, though the pilot had ejected. It still faces armed opposition in the northern neighbourhoods of Sabri and Souq al-Hout.
LNA leader Haftar launched his Dignity Operation in Benghazi in May 2014, saying he wanted to rid the city of militants following a series of bombings and assassinations.
Some of his opponents have openly acknowledged their allegiance to Islamic State or al Qaeda-linked groups but others say they are fighting to prevent a return to authoritarian rule in Libya.
Haftar has rejected a beleaguered UN-backed government in Tripoli that was meant to reunite the country after it split between eastern- and western-based governments and military factions in 2014.
On Friday, there were demonstrations against militia rule in central Tripoli after unusually violent clashes this week, and some voiced support for Haftar before the protests were broken up amid gunfire.
Haftar, who many suspect of seeking national rule, addressed the capital’s residents on local TV after the protests saying, “your armed forces will not abandon you, and we will be by your side until Tripoli is returned to the homeland.”
A group of 22 militias based in Tripoli issued a statement on Friday reasserting their opposition to the LNA leader.