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ICC probing reports of Libyan militia leader killing

Published on March 29, 2021

The International Criminal Court is probing reports that war crimes suspect and Libyan militia leader Mahmoud al-Werfalli was shot dead in the eastern city of Benghazi, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor said Monday.

Security sources told AFP last week that Werfalli, a member of forces loyal to eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar, “was shot dead with his cousin Ayman” by unidentified gunmen.

The pair were said to have been seriously wounded before being pronounced dead on arrival at Benghazi Medical Centre, located near the scene of the shooting, another security source said.

Fatou Bensouda said her office was “aware of and is currently verifying reports of the assassination of the ICC suspect, Mr Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli.”

But the outgoing prosecutor added that reports about an ICC delegation “on the ground in Libya for this purpose are inaccurate and misleading.”

The ICC issued a first warrant for Werfalli’s arrest in August 2017, accusing him of having ordered or personally carried out seven separate rounds of executions of 33 people in 2016 and 2017.

ICC judges referred to video footage allegedly showing Werfalli personally shooting hooded and bound prisoners, or ordering a firing squad to open fire on them.

In July 2018, the ICC issued a second arrest warrant for Werfalli for his “alleged responsibility for murder as a war crime”.

The court said he “allegedly shot dead 10 persons in front of the Bi’at al-Radwan Mosque” in Benghazi on January 24 that year.

Born in 1978, Werfalli was a commander of the Al-Saiqa Brigade, an elite unit that defected from Libya’s military during the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Libya has been mired in chaos and repeated rounds of conflict in the decade since, with the main cleavage in recent years pitting a Tripoli-based government against an administration in the east loyal to Haftar.

Fighting came to a halt last summer and a formal ceasefire in October has been followed by the establishment of a new Government of National Unity.

The two rival administrations this month formally handed over power to the new entity, which is mandated to steer the country to elections in December.

However, the security situation remains precarious in Benghazi, the principal eastern city.

Two other Libyans remain wanted by the ICC — Seif al-Islam Kadhafi, a son of the country’s ex-dictator, and Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, formerly head of the internal security agency.