BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — The U.N. envoy to Libya expressed shock on Friday after bodies of 14 people, apparently victims of extrajudicial killings, were found dumped in the eastern city of Benghazi the day before.
Martin Kobler also urging authorities to investigate the deaths, posting on his Twitter account that he is “utterly shocked and dismayed by the summary execution,” which he called a war crime.
Libya’s al-Wasat daily reported that the bodies were found in a garbage dump in Benghazi on Thursday. For the past two years, Benghazi has been convulsed with fighting between forces led by Brig. Gen. Khalifa Hifter and a coalition of Islamic militias.
Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 ouster of Moammar Gadhafi and has in the past years become bitterly divided between rival factions and competing governments.
Meanwhile, France’s ambassador to the North African country denied on Friday claims by Libyan officials that a French warplane bombed Islamic militia positions in eastern Libya after French forces were killed in the area.
“France has carried out no air strikes in Libya,” Ambassador Antoine Sivan said in a statement. “It formally denies accusations that contribute to sow doubt and division in the country.”
Sivan also called for efforts to strengthen national unity and urged all Libyan forces to band together against Islamic State extremists.
Two Libyan military officials told The Associated Press on Thursday that a French warplane bombed Islamic militia positions outside the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi in retaliation for the deaths of French special forces.
The killings of the French, which took place on Sunday and which were first reported by the AP, prompted the French Defense Ministry to confirm on Wednesday that it lost three officers in eastern Libya. It was the first time France has said its forces operate in eastern Libya.
The acknowledgment underscored the complexities of Libya’s conflict, with its rival political factions and a myriad of militias, and also embarrassed France because it exposed the French in eastern Libya are fighting alongside Hifter, who is a bitter opponent of the U.N.-backed unity government based in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
French officials did not respond to earlier requests for comment on the reported bombings by a French warplane.
Two Libyan officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said the bombings forced the militias to retreat toward the town of Ajdabiya, west of Benghazi.
Associated Press Writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.