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Civilians among over 100 victims of landmines in Libya's capital: UN

Turkish deminers search and clear landmines in Salah al-Din area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on June 15, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations mission in Libya (UNSMIL) says over 100 people, including civilians, have been killed or injured due to landmine explosions in south of the capital, Tripoli.

The UNSMIL said in a statement on Sunday that "mines and improvised explosive devices (planted) in or near homes have caused more than 100 victims," including civilians and mine disposal experts.

It further said the toll was for casualties since early June without giving a breakdown.

The UNSMIL statement came after a meeting between acting UN envoy Stephanie Williams and Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in the Italian capital, Rome on Saturday. 

It came in the midst of the conflict between Libya’s warring sides that continues to intensify as a result of foreign intervention in the North African country.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Sarraj, in Tripoli, and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by militants under the command of renegade general Khalifa Haftar.

Since April last year, Haftar’s forces have been fighting in an all-out offensive to capture Tripoli and unseat the government, but have remained bogged down on the city’s outskirts.

The GNA, as well as the United Nations and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have previously accused Haftar’s forces of planting landmines in residential southern suburbs of the capital.

Meanwhile, at the Rome meeting, acting UN envoy Williams expressed concern over reports claiming that "mercenaries of various nationalities" had been deployed in Libyan oil installations.

Williams said the presence of mercenaries there "threatens" to transform the country’s “oil crescent” region into a "battlefield".

Also on Saturday, GNA head, Sarraj held talks in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during which he stressed that the conflict in Libya has no military solution.

Libya has been in chaos since 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Fighting has recently intensified near the Libyan capital as the presence of foreign patrons with competing regional interests has compounded the conflict.

Haftar’s forces are backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Libyan government, the GNA, receives backing from Turkey that has significantly helped the Tripoli government by sending sophisticated drones and air defense systems, as well as dispatching allied militants from Syria.

Recent weeks have seen a turning point in the fighting, with the Libyan government achieving the upper hand against Haftar’s forces on several fronts.

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