UN mission slams rise in Libya violence

Tripoli (AFP) –


The United Nations mission in Libya Wednesday condemned rising violence in the North African country, after forces loyal to a unity government this week retook towns west of Tripoli.

UNSMIL said in a statement that it was "alarmed by the continuing escalation of violence", which risked creating "new waves of displacement".

"UNSMIL notes with grave concern reports of attacks on civilians ... desecration of corpses, retribution, including looting, robberies and torching of public and private properties" in towns that Government of National Accord (GNA) forces have seized in recent days.

The statement said the allegations, if verified, "would constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law".

Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The current power struggle pits the UN-recognised GNA against eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive to seize Tripoli in April last year.

The capture Monday of the coastal towns of Sorman and Sabratha and smaller settlements further south was seen as a major blow to Haftar.

His forces rained rockets on Tripoli on Tuesday, hitting several homes around Mitiga airbase in the eastern suburbs, the capital's sole and only intermittently functioning airport.

UNSMIL also slammed pro-Haftar forces' "indiscriminate bombardment of Tripoli", adding that rockets had landed on civilian neighbourhoods, causing casualties.

"Acts of revenge will further escalate the conflict, and lead to a cycle of revenge that threatens the social fabric in Libya," it warned.

GNA chief Fayez al-Sarraj said he would no longer negotiate a political solution with Haftar, in an interview published Wednesday by Italian daily La Repubblica.