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article imageArmed men abducted six, wounded others in Libya rally: Amnesty

By AFP     Aug 26, 2020 in World

Armed men have abducted at least six peaceful protesters in Libya's capital and used live fire to disperse a demonstration wounding others, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

The protest was one of several that took place Sunday against poor public services and living conditions, with other rallies erupting in the country's third-largest city Misrata and Al-Zawyia west of the capital Tripoli.

"At least six peaceful protesters were abducted and several others were wounded after armed men fired live ammunition including from heavy machine-guns to disperse a demonstration in Tripoli," Amnesty said in a statement.

The London-based rights group said Sunday's attack took place in a district controlled by a militia aligned to Tripoli's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

It was carried out by "unidentified armed men wearing military-style camouflage clothes (who) opened fire," Amnesty said, citing video evidence, photos and witnesses.

Witnesses said that no warning was given before the live rounds were fired and gave "stong indications" that the militia was responsible, the watchdog said.

"Videos also show assailants using a heavy machine-gun mounted on a pick-up truck to fire live rounds into the air to disperse the protesters," Amnesty added.

On Wednesday, GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj chaired a security meeting that discussed "the clashes" in Tripoli and what triggered them.

A statement by the GNA on Facebook added that the meeting underscored the need to "implement measures to ensure the safety of citizens".

It also called for a probe into "violations" committed against the protesters, including anyone who sustained injuries, and ordered the release of those not involved in acts of "vandalism", it added.

After the meeting, a separate GNA statement announced that Tripoli and its suburbs would be placed under total lockdown from 6:00pm (1600 GMT) Wednesday until 6:00am (0400 GMT) on Monday morning.

It said the temporary lockdown was imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus and includes a travel ban between cities in GNA controlled areas

- Calls for probe -

The protests began days after the country's warring rival administrations announced separately ...
The protests began days after the country's warring rival administrations announced separately that they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections
-, AFP

Protests had also taken place on Monday and Tuesday in Tripoli.

GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha described those responsible for Sunday's violence as "outlaws who infiltrated the security forces".

And Sarraj on Monday tried to appease the demonstrators by pledging to carry out a cabinet reshuffle.

Sarraj said he backed Libyans' "legitimate rights" to protest, but criticised the demonstrators, saying they had failed to secure necessary approvals to rally.

On Monday, the UN mission in Libya, UNSMIL, called for an "immediate and thorough investigation into the excessive use of force by pro-GNA security personnel".

Amnesty echoed the appeal, calling for a "thorough, impartial, independent and transparent investigation into the unjustified use of force against protesters".

It said those responsible must be held accountable and the whereabouts of those abducted must be revealed.

Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The country's main military fault-line is between forces that back the GNA and eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, who runs a rival administration.

The war-weary country is plagued by water shortages and power blackouts that snuff out air-conditioners in the searing summer heat.

The situation has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which has depressed global oil prices and spread in the hydrocarbon-rich country despite social distancing measures.

The protests began days after the country's warring rival administrations announced separately that they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections.

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