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Hundreds trapped in Libya's Benghazi amid fighting, warns Amnesty Open in fullscreen

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Hundreds trapped in Libya's Benghazi amid fighting, warns Amnesty

Amnesty said that civilians caught in crossfire are facing mass punishment [AFP]

Date of publication: 1 October, 2016

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Amnesty International fears that civilians caught in crossfire in Libya are facing mass punishment under the pretext that they are supporters or sympathisers of the extremist Islamic militants.
Amnesty International expressed alarm on Friday over the fate of hundreds of Libyan and foreign nationals trapped for months amid fighting in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The rights group said that nearly 130 families and hundreds of foreigners in the southwestern Benghazi neighbourhood of Ganfouda have been cut off from the outside world, with dwindling food and fuel supplies.

"Time is running out for civilians in Ganfouda, who are being left to die trapped by the fighting," said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Program.

The fighting has raged in Benghazi since 2014 when forces commanded by powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar began a campaign against militants there, including branches of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State [IS] group.

Haftar, supported by British, French, and American military advisers and special forces, has managed to take control over much of the city.

Ganfouda is one of the few districts where the militants have put up fierce resistance against Haftar's National Libyan Army forces.

Time is running out for civilians in Ganfouda, who are being left to die trapped by the fighting
- Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Program

However, international groups have been appealing for the creation of safe corridors to evacuate civilians trapped in Ganfouda.

Amnesty quoted a resident who identified himself as Mohamed as saying that residents are in desperate need for humanitarian supplies, especially the youngest residents.

"The children look like skin and bones because of the lack of food and poor nutrition. If they could just drop us some food for the children or get them out of here, even if that meant leaving the rest of us, that would be fine," he said.

Residents have taken to hosting displaced families whose houses were destroyed by airstrikes and shelling.

"We're living like animals," according to another resident whom Amnesty identified as Samir. He added that he has taken three families into his house bringing the number of residents to 24.

Amnesty feared that civilians caught in crossfire are facing mass punishment, under the pretext that they are supporters or sympathisers of the extremist Islamic militants.

"Civilians should not be used as human shields, and those who wish to leave must be protected from arbitrary detention, torture or any other abuses," said Mughrabi.

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