“It seems that fighting erupted in the city after a local imam, Khaled Ben Rajab al-Ferjani, known for his vocal opposition to ISIL, was shot dead on 10 August. He is reported to have been killed while resisting abduction by ISIL fighters,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reportersin Geneva.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) was told by local residents most civilians had fled the area, which was reportedly indiscriminately shelled by ISIL forces the morning of August 13. The total number of fatalities is currently not known, but unconfirmed estimates received by UNSMIL range between 4 and 38, and at least 16 men were captured.
The attacks came at a time when Libyan key political stakeholders gathered in Geneva for a dialogue to resolve the country’s crisis and send a strong message of unity.
Both UNSMIL and OHCHR have previously expressed deep concern at apparent reprisals carried out by ISIL militants against civilians in Libya whom they perceive to be opposing them. In July, the group deliberately destroyed at least seven homes in Sirte and summarily executed a man they accused of “treason,” and whose body was put on public display.
“In April 2015, the bodies of three members of a prominent family in Derna were also put on public display. During its control of Derna, which lasted until June this year, ISIL also carried out at least four public summary executions and an amputation. It seems that the public flaunting of these murders is intended to send a message to anyone challenging ISIL in Libya,” Colville said.
In addition, he stated groups affiliated with ISIL have been targeting individuals on the basis of their religion. In April 2015, one such group released a video showing the execution of at least 28 Christians in two separate incidents in Libya, while in February, 21 mostly Egyptian Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIL, which continues to commit serious human rights violations.
This week, in his analysis article for Homeland Security Today, Dr. Dave Sloggett wrote the situation in Libya is highly complex, noting that “the natural partner of the Western world in trying to approach the defeat of a significant Dā’ish presence on the ground has little ability to manoeuver outside Tripoli."
The latest round of the UN-facilitated Libyan political dialogue concluded in Geneva on August 13, with the different parties emphasizing the need to set aside partisan agendas and uphold the country’s higher national interests.
“The parties reiterated their conviction that there can be no alternative to peace in Libya outside this dialogue process, which sets the framework for a comprehensive political settlement that is achieved through consensus,” said a statement issued by the UNSMIL at the end of the latest round of talks.
The parties expressed optimism the dialogue process was approaching its final stages. In this regard, the statement added, the participation of a number of political party leaders heralded a positive step towards the convergence of the various dialogue tracks, particularly those of the political parties and political activists, as well as municipalities.