Libya: death squad terror in Benghazi

The bodies of 14 civilians were found July 22 in a landfill in Benghazi's Lathi neighborhood, which is under the control of "Operation Dignity" forces, led by renegade Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar.  The victims included the imam from the local mosque, Abdullah al-Fakhri, a revered community figure and a father of three. The bodies showed signs of torture as well as gunshots to the head. The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, denounced the executions, calling them a war crime. "Those responsible must be held accountable and brought to justice," he said. Operation Dignity forces are attempting to tighten their grip as the Benghazi Defense Brigades, a group of armed IDPs, announced a drive to take the city by force. (Libya Herald, Libya Observer, July 22)

Two days earlier, President Francois Hollande said three French soldiers were killed in a helicopter accident in Libya during what he called an intelligence-gathering mission. The statement confirmed for the first time that French special forces are active in the country. The Presidential Council of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) responded in a statement that it "declares its displeasure of the French government's announcement that it has a presence in eastern Libya without the knowledge of the Council and without coordinating with it."

The French statement did not say where the supposed accident took place. But the Benghazi Defense Brigades—affiliated with the former Mufti of Libya, Sadeq al-Ghariani—said earlier in the week that its forces had shot down a helicopter southwest of Benghazi. The helicopter reportedly belonged to the Libyan national army, and French soldiers as well as two Libyan officers were among the dead. (Tripoli Post, July 21; Tripoli Post, July 20)