CAIRO (Reuters) - Libyan armed factions’ attacks on civilians and destruction of property over five weeks of fighting to control Tripoli may amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
An alliance of armed groups from the western city of Misrata called Operation Dawn took Tripoli two weeks ago by expelling a rival faction from Zintan, part of growing turmoil that has beset the oil producer since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
“The militias have seized people and looted, burned, and otherwise destroyed property,” HRW said in a report, adding that both sides appeared to have taken prisoners during the fighting whose fate was unclear.
“Libyan militia forces battling for control of Tripoli and surrounding areas have engaged in attacks on civilians and civilian property that in some cases amount to war crimes, ” HRW said in the report.
Western powers and neighbors fear the North African country may become a failed state, unable to stop former rebels who ousted Gaddafi in 2011 but now have turned their guns on each other to control the vast desert country and its energy resources.
A weak central government and the country’s parliament have evacuated to the eastern city of Tobruk to escape violence. A rival legislature is now operating in Tripoli.
Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Ralph Boulton