TARHOUNA, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan authorities on Friday released two bodies found in mass graves in the city of Tarhouna after the Tripoli government retook it in June from Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
They are among the first to be identified since the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) began exhuming scores of bodies from numerous sites in and around Tarhouna.
Last week Human Rights Watch said hundreds of Tarhouna residents were abducted or reported missing after the local Kaniyat militia took control there in 2015.
The Kaniyat, headed by members of the al-Kani family, was allied to the LNA and helped it mount a failed 14-month assault on Tripoli that began in April 2019.
The GNA has issued arrest warrants for leaders of the Kaniyat who are believed to be in LNA-held eastern territory.
“My son was abducted from his workplace … and taken to a rest house. He was killed the same night,” said Mohammed Ramadan al-Tuhami, taking possession of the body of his son Ali from the authorities in Tripoli.
The Tuhami and al-Saadi families took the bodies of their relatives back to Tarhouna for burial at a funeral attended by a large crowd of mourners later on Friday.
Men crouched by the grave side and embraced as the two bodies, wrapped in white shrouds, lay ready for burial.
On Sunday more families will try to identify their relatives using belongings found by the authorities’ forensic science department.
Mahmoud Saadi was abducted by the militia in December 2019, said his brother Ali Saadi, who was also held by them.
He said the militia commander questioned them both about people involved in political activism. “I told him I didn’t know them. Then he asked me to leave. He shot two bullets into my brother,” he said.
“This is a catastrophe, and it happened in Tarhouna,” Saadi added.
(Reporting by Hazem Ahmed in Tarhouna; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Giles Elgood)