Rights group says residents in Tripoli trapped between armed groups

Tripoli, Libya (PANA) – Rival armed groups have killed at least 18 civilians, including four children, since clashes broke out in the southern suburbs of Tripoli on 26 August 2018, Human Rights Watch (HRW)has said.

In a statement, it urged armed groups to urgently allow the hundreds of civilians trapped to leave and allow safe passage of humanitarian and medical aid and take all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize harm to civilians.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) under the Government of National Accord (GNA) stated on 31 August that 39 people had been killed and 119 wounded, a majority of them civilians, as a result of the fighting.

The GNA Ambulance and Emergency Services told Human Rights Watch that as of 30 August at least 18 civilians were among the dead, including 4 children aged between 6 and 15. Several others suffered serious injuries. There are no confirmed figures of casualties transferred to hospitals outside of Tripoli.

“The recklessness of armed groups currently fighting each other for power appears to have no boundaries, and civilians are paying the price,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “All sides need to do everything they can to spare civilian lives.”

Fighting broke out on 26 August between armed groups both linked to the interior and defence ministries of the internationally-backed, Tripoli-based GNA, who are fighting for control of territory and vital institutions in the capital.

The so-called Seventh Brigade from Tarhouna, also known as Kaniyat, and led by Muhsen Al-Kani, attacked positions of Tripoli-based armed groups. Those positions included the Yarmouk Military Base controlled by the Tripoli Revolutionaries Battalion (TRB), nominally affiliated with the GNA Interior Ministry and under the command of Haitham Al-Tajouri. Media reports say the Seventh Brigade, established by the Defence Ministry in 2017, is no longer affiliated with the GNA.

Local emergency services personnel say hundreds of families were apparently stranded because of the fighting. Around 60 families were trapped in an area known as the Suzuki Triangle, situated near Al-Yarmouk Military Base, without water or bread, according to Osama Ali, spokesperson for the Tripoli Ambulance and Emergency Services.

Migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers held in detention facilities run by the GNA Interior Ministry were also trapped by clashes.

Representatives from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) told Human Rights Watch that on 28 August, they helped the evacuation of around 600 migrants and asylum seekers, from two detention centres in areas affected by the fighting in Ain Zara and Salaheddin, and transferred them to the Abu Salim and the “Trig El-Matar” detention facilities.

IOM said that as of 30 August, seven migrants were still at Ain Zara facility. Their status is unclear. IOM also confirmed that authorities released 290 migrants as fighting began, showing again how precarious the security situation remains for migrants and asylum seekers and raising questions about the European Union’s efforts to outsource migration control to Libya, Human Rights Watch said.

Ali told Human Rights Watch that most casualties sustained major injuries through direct impact/penetration, blast, and fragmentation. He said 80 percent of casualties had traumatic wounds, including amputated limbs. Ali said the injuries were consistent with the types of explosive weapons used by the parties, including large-caliber mortar and artillery projectiles, as well as unguided Grad rockets and anti-tank guided missiles.

Malek Merset, spokesperson for the GNA health ministry’s Directorate of Wounded Affairs, told Human Rights Watch that teams had reached some families in areas where clashes were taking place, and had evacuated some and provided drinking water.

According to Ali, both armed groups had seriously impeded the work of relief crews and had on several occasions denied them safe passage. MOH reported on August 30 that a volunteer worker evacuating families from an area of heavy fighting was killed on duty.

Libyan authorities on 31 August shut Mitiga Airport in Tripoli for a period of 48 hours after rockets were fired in its direction and temporarily diverted flights to Misrata Airport, according to media reports.

Fighting since 26 August has been concentrated in the southern suburbs of Tripoli, in often densely populated neighbourhoods in Wadi Al-Rabeea, parts of Ain Zara, Salah Eddin, Khallet Al-Furjan, and parts of the airport road.

The other major armed groups fighting alongside the TRB include: the Abu Saleem Central Support Forces lead by Abdulghani Al-Kikli, known as Ghaniwa; the Nawasi Battalion lead by Mustafa Qaddur; and the Deterrence Anti-Organized Crime and Terrorism Apparatus, formerly the Special Deterrence Force, and lead by Abderrauf Kara. Misratan-led Brigade 301 is also supporting the TRB.

“Militias trapping families in areas of heavy fighting and stealing ambulances is no way to gain legitimacy,” Whitson said. “Commanders should know that they too can be held responsible for serious violations unless they act resolutely to stop them and punish those responsible.”
-0- PANA MA 3Sept2018

03 Setembro 2018 06:33:55

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