Libya’s renegade general Khalifah Haftar is facing growing pressure to hand over a special forces field commander after a series of videos emerged allegedly showing his men summarily executing dozens of prisoners.
The UN last week called on Haftar, backed by Egypt and the UAE, to give up Mahmoud al-Warfalli, days before video emerged on social media of his men allegedly executing 18 people. Warning, graphic footage follows:
— اللالا (@LaLaKdaho) July 23, 2017
In the video soldiers from Haftar’s Libyan National Army appear to shoot 18 bound and kneeling prisoners in the head from close range, before they slump to the ground.
However, the video cannot be independently verified by MEE.
But the footage is the latest from a number of incidents linked to Warfalli, officially the special forces field commander of Haftar’s LNA, which says it is fighting Islamic State and other groups it regards as “terrorists”, while also opposing the UN-backed unity government sitting in Tripoli.
Human Rights Watch called for an investigation on 22 March, and named Warfalli as complicit in war crimes committed by LNA forces in the final battle for Ganfouda, following a long siege of the town.
“Libyan National Army (LNA) forces may have committed war crimes,” said HRW in its report.
The rights group said these included “killing and beating civilians, and summarily executing and desecrating bodies of opposition fighters in the eastern city of Benghazi on and around March 18, 2017”.
The report named Warfalli as the shooter in a video, circulated on social media in March, in which he allegedly murdered three men.
Human Rights Watch wrote said the video showed him shooting them “in the back of the head with a machine gun as they kneel facing a wall with their hands tied behind their backs”.
— Mary Fitzgerald (@MaryFitzger) July 24, 2017
The LNA Special Forces spokesman issued a statement on the 21 March defending Warfalli’s actions as having occurred “within the battlefields”.
Human Rights Watch said that by issuing statements justifying these “barbaric acts”, the leadership of the LNA was implicating themselves in “what appear to be war crimes”.
“Local journalists told Human Rights Watch that the executions took place in Benghazi during the final battle for Ganfouda on or around March 18, 2017,” the report said.
Haftar is set to meet with the head of the UN backed Government of National Accord on Tuesday in France for the first time in over a year.
So Macron intends to roll out the red carpet for Haftar in Paris. Meanwhile, Haftar’s war criminals are doing this: https://t.co/2XKAI14yWd
— Wolfram Lacher (@W_Lacher) July 23, 2017
This latest video emerged on Sunday after the most recent wave of clashes in the country’s second largest city of Benghazi, between Haftar’s forces and rival groups.
Two weeks ago Haftar declared Benghazi’s “liberation” in a televised speech after three years of fighting, however battles continue as his forces face resistance in the city.
The LNA also carried out air strikes on the city of Derna, which has been under siege by the LNA.
Local resident Hamza al-Dernawy described to Middle East Eye a city isolated by forces loyal to Haftar, with shops fast running out of food and medicine.
“Derna is under siege by Haftar’s militias,” said Dernawy. “Whoever attempts to leave is either kidnapped or subject to humiliation by the soldiers as they leave.
“There has been massive material damage to infrastructure, homes, and schools. One lady had a miscarriage due to the strikes. But thankfully no civilians were killed.”
Many social media users have drawn comparisons between tactics shown in the video, and other videos showing executions by Islamic State.
— Ahmed Sewehli (@LibyanIntegrity) July 23, 2017
Leaked phone calls have also previously suggested that Haftar allowed IS fighters to escape the east of Libya and reach Sirte which remained a stronghold for them in the country for many months.
Other users have questioned the veracity of the latest video, claiming that fabricating the videos could be another LNA tactic.
It could be a fake execution in order to illicit reaction from international organizations & NGOs then release a video showing it was a fake
— Ahmed El-Gasir (@amelgasir) July 23, 2017