24-31 October: Mass grave with 36 handcuffed bodies discovered near Benghazi

Oct 31, 2017 | Other Jihadi Actors

36 bodies were discovered in a mass grave by al-Abyar town, 50km south west of Benghazi on 26 October. The dead were found handcuffed and seem to have been executed in the style attributed to Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a field commander of the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) Saiqa Special Operations division. According to local sources, the dead include a number of LNA fighters accused of being ‘traitors’, as well as civilians and Sufi clerics notorious for their dislike of the LNA.

Werfalli, a notable figure among ‘Madkhali’ Salafists in the LNA, is infamous for the videos of his executions of LNA prisoners. He is officially wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged involvement in war crimes in Benghazi. Although LNA Commander Haftar had promised to launch an investigation into Werfalli’s actions and issued a directive on 28 October instructing the Military Governor and Chief of Staff of eastern Libya to do just that, nothing of substance has happened so far.

Widespread condemnation of the incident has tarnished the LNA’s recent diplomatic and military accomplishments in the western region. Un Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame stated that he was “appalled by this heinous crime… there have been many cases of this nature in the last two years, [and] yet no accountability.” Salame reemphasized the need for a full inquiry into the matter and called on both the LNA and Government of National Accord (GNA) to action the investigation.

Mainstream forces in the west of Libya continue the crackdown on Islamists linked with ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia. On 26 October, Misratan security detained three alleged jihadists in Souq al-Khamis, east of Khoms. The suspected jihadists have been identified as Ramadan Shaurbaji, Feisal Zaltum, and Mahmoud Ibshesh. Ibshesh is a member of the Farouk unit which fought against the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Benghazi in 2014 and 2015. Ibshesh was wounded in the battle in 2015 and transferred to Turkey for medical treatment before eventually returning to Khoms.

Clashes were reported earlier this week, in Zliten, a town halfway between Misrata and Khoms, between forces said to be from Misrata and local Islamist fighters. On 25 October, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari gave a press conference stating that personnel and location of arms caches had been discovered as a result of jihadists being interrogated in Misrata.