Rights group: 50 detained in east Libya after prison escape

March 8, 2022 GMT

CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s east-based army rounded up at least 50 people in a coastal city following a prison escape earlier this year, a rights group said Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that an armed group affiliated with the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces launched the crackdown after five prisoners escaped from a prison in the city of Derna on Jan. 16.

It said the five prisoners were arrested again four days later. But the armed group, Tarek Bin Ziyad Battalion, continued detain others in the city, including relatives of the five and former detainees and their families.

“Once again, unaccountable LAAF forces resort to brutal tactics to instill fear and terror among Derna residents,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy regional director at HRW.

Goldstein called fort the release of those arbitrarily detained and reveal the whereabouts of anyone still in detention.

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A spokesman for the LAAF was not immediately available for comment.

The LAAF, led by powerful commander Khalifa Hifter, controls Libya’s east and much of the south. It captured Derna after fighting with militant groups in 2018.

Hifter’s forces have brought a sense of stability in areas they control but they employed a more aggressive crackdown on activists and NGOs.

Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed long-time ruler Moammar Gadhafi. The country is largely controlled by an array of militias profiting for decade-old chaos and civil wars.