Libyan authorities: 42 bodies found in mass grave

BENGHAZI, Libya – Libya’s Missing Persons Authority announced Sunday the discovery of 42 bodies buried in a mass grave in the central coastal city of Sirte, a former stronghold of the ousted Islamic State group.

In a statement, the authority’s spokesman said the 42 bodies had been exhumed from a school playground in the city following a “tip-off” from an investigation carried out with captured Islamic State fighters.

Sirte, the birthplace of former longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, fell under Islamic State control between 2015 and 2016 as the extremist group sought to take advantage of the chaos engulfing the oil-rich nation since the fallout of the 2011 revolution.

The Islamist group was eventually driven out of the city in December 2016 by forces fighting for the former UN-backed Government of National Accord. Hundreds of alleged former Islamic State fighters remain incarcerated in Libyan prisons, many awaiting trial.

Missing Persons Authority spokesman Abdulaziz El Mabrouk said all 42 bodies have since been transferred to a nearby hospital and samples of their blood, teeth and bones were collected to identify the missing victims. Another 11 bodies were found near the same site in May, he added. No information was provided on the cause of death for either body.

Several mass graves have been uncovered across Libya in recent years. In December 2018, the bodies of more than 30 men were discovered near Sirte, believed to be those of a group of Ethiopian Christian Islamic State fighters who were executed in a video the group released years earlier. In the western city of Tarhuna, hundreds of bodies have been uncovered across multiple graves after militia fighters loyal to Libyan military leader General Khalifa Hifter withdrew from the area in June 2020.

Libya was thrown into turmoil after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed Gaddafi in 2011. For years, the country has been torn between rival administrations, each backed by rogue militias and foreign governments. Recent months have seen an increase in deadly militia clashes.

In Tripoli, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has refused to step down after Libya failed to hold elections last year. His rival, Prime Minister Fathy Bashagha, operates from the eastern city of Benghazi after failed efforts to install his government in the capital.

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