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Thousands of stranded migrants found in Libya

October 8, 2017

A Libyan militia has discovered several large groups of migrants after pushing a rival faction out of the port city of Sabratha. The fighting was reportedly triggered by Italy pledging support to one of the groups.

Refugees loaded on trucks in Sabratha
Migrants from Sabratha were transported to detention centersImage: Reuters/H. Amara

The militia, known as Anti-ISIS Operation Room, wrestled control of the Sabratha from the al-Ammu armed group after about two weeks of heavy fighting. On Sunday, the victorious faction reported finding over 4,000 migrants in various locations across the city, where they have been reportedly trapped by clashes.

Libyan human smugglers have long used Sabratha as an operations base and a main port for their boats heading across the Mediterranean Sea. Earlier this year, Italy reportedly decided to make a deal with the al-Ammu militia, promising them money and logistical support if they agreed to cut off the migrant flow.

Read more: Libya recovers remains of 21 beheaded Coptic Christians

The deal caused the numbers of outgoing migrants to drop drastically. However, as Italian support threatened to upset the power balance in the volatile region, rival forces decided to strike back at the al-Ammu group. Hundreds have reportedly died in the fighting.

On Sunday, representatives of the Anti-ISIS Operation Room said that al-Ammu militia was storing migrants to deport them later.

On the same day, activist Essam Karrar from the Sabratha Civil Society Federation said the militia was actually trying to deport the migrants. The city was now "healing its wounds" after the fighting.

Read more: Italy's navy to patrol with Libyan ships to curb human trafficking

"We the people in Sabratha were only tools in the hands of Europeans," he said.

Libya sank into chaos after the 2011 ouster of Moammar Gadhafi. Three different governments are still vying for control.

dj/jlw (AP, AFP)

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