More than 300Â residents of the Libyan town of Tarhuna have been abducted or reported missing since the start of the countryâ€™s civil war, a prominent rights group said in a report Thursday that calledÂ on authorities in Tripoli to investigate the disappearances.
Since the Kaniyat militia took control of the western Libyan city of TarhunaÂ in 2015,Â at least 388 peopleÂ have been reported missing. Family members who spoke with the New York-based Human Rights Watch all alleged that the Kaniyat armed group was behind the disappearances of their relatives.
Located some 57 miles southeast of Tripoli, Gen. Khalifa Hifterâ€™s Libyan National Army (LNA) used Tarhuna as a staging ground for a 14-month offensive against the capital, whichÂ ended in defeat this summer. The Kaniyat militia, which is loyal to Hifter, had controlled Tarhuna until the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) recaptured it in June.
The North African country descended into chaos amid a 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country is now ruled by two administrations, each supported by foreign backers who have flooded the country with illegal arms and mercenaries.
The Tripoli-based GNA says it has discovered 27 unmarked mass graves in Tarhuna. The bodies, some of which showed signs of abuse, have not yet been identified but are believed to be both civilians and GNA soldiers. Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations and foreign governments to provide forensic experts to assist in the GNA’s gravesite investigations.
â€œFamilies in Tarhuna whose loved ones went missing face a difficult time moving forward with their lives,â€ said Hanan Salah, senior Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch. â€œThe authorities should act on the grim discovery of mass graves by taking proper steps to identify the bodies and bringing those responsible for abuses to justice.â€
In November, the Trump administration sanctioned the Kaniyat militia and its leader, Mohamed al-Kani, accusing them of torturing and killing civilians in a â€œcruel campaign of oppression.â€