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Haftar’s forces release two kidnapped journalists in Libya

Two Libyan journalists held by an armed group for more than three weeks have been released, the television channel they work for said on Saturday.

“We congratulate the press world for the release of our two colleagues, Mohamad al-Gurj and Mohamad al-Chibani, who were kidnapped by Haftar’s forces on May 2 while they were covering the assault on Tripoli,” said the private channel Libya al-Ahrar, which is based in Turkey.

The two journalists were freed on Friday, the channel added.

The capital’s southern suburbs have been the target of an offensive launched April 4 by Khalifa Haftar, military strongman of an eastern administration aimed at seizing Tripoli from an internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

The release of the television journalists followed local and international condemnation of their detention, including from media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Nasser al-Hawary, a Libyan human rights advocate, said this was the first kidnapping of journalists since fighting began April 4. He said both parties may begin targeting reporters to conceal the situation on the ground.

In a press freedom index compiled by RSF, Libya ranks a lowly 162nd out of 180 countries.

The UN said at least 510 people have been killed and around 2,500 wounded in the fighting, as well as more than 80,000 displaced.

Earlier this month, the forces of Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) boasted of new weapons to fight off a rival’s offensive on Tripoli, despite an arms embargo on the country.

“The GNA supplies armour, ammunition and… weapons, to its forces who are defending Tripoli,” read a statement published on Facebook.

The GNA said the new weaponry had been supplied “in preparation for a vast operation to annihilate the rebels of the war criminal, the rebel Haftar.”

Photos of dozens of armoured vehicles at Tripoli port were also published on the Facebook page, which is run by the media office for the GNA’s counter-offensive against Haftar.

Libya has been under an arms embargo since the 2011 uprising which led to the ousting and killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

But the embargo has been regularly violated by different groups in Libya, according to the United Nations.

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