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Armed men abducted six, wounded others during Libya protests, says report

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At least six peaceful protesters were abducted and others were wounded in Libya’s capital after armed men used live fire to disperse a demonstration, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

“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” on Sunday, the rights group said in a statement.

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The demonstration was one of several to take place in Libya that day, including others in Misrata and al-Zawyia, against poor public services and living conditions.

Amnesty said the attack took place in a district controlled by a militia aligned to Tripoli’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and that witness testimony gave “strong indications” that the militia was responsible.

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The attack 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.
“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,” the rights group said.

The GNA’s Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha had called those responsible for Sunday’s violence “outlaws who infiltrated the security forces”.

The UN mission in Libya, UNSMIL, had on Monday called for an “immediate and thorough investigation into the excessive use of force by pro-GNA security personnel” the previous day.

GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj was heading a security meeting on “the clashes” in the capital with a view to determining “all aspects” of the situation and to ensure citizens’ security, his administration said on its Facebook page on Wednesday.

Further protests took place in the capital on Monday and Tuesday, but the GNA ordered a four-day lockdown Wednesday starting from 6:00pm local time to forestall a fourth consecutive day of protests.

Sarraj on Monday backed Libyans’ “legitimate right” to protest and announced a cabinet reshuffle, in a bid to appease protesters. But he also said the protesters had failed to secure necessary approvals.

Amnesty said there was no evidence to support GNA claims that armed “infiltrators” had been present at the protests.

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

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 novel 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.