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Libyan authorities: 42 bodies discovered in mass grave

BENGHAZI, Libya – The Libyan Missing Persons Authority announced Sunday the discovery of 42 bodies buried in a mass grave in the central coastal city of Sirte, a former stronghold of the ousted Islamic State group.

In a statement, the authority’s spokesman said the 42 bodies had been exhumed from a school site in the city following a “tip” from an investigation carried out with captured Islamic State fighters.

Sirte, the birthplace of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, fell under Islamic State control between 2015 and 2016 as the extremist group sought to profit from the chaos that has engulfed the oil-rich nation since the aftermath of the 2011 revolution.

The Islamist group was eventually forced out of the city in December 2016 by forces fighting for the former UN-backed Government of National Accord. Hundreds of suspected former Islamic State fighters remain incarcerated in Libyan prisons, many awaiting trial.

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Missing Persons Authority spokesman Abdulaziz El Mabrouk said the 42 bodies had since been taken to a nearby hospital and blood, tooth and bone samples had been collected to identify the missing victims. Another 11 bodies were found near the same site in May, he added. No information was provided on the cause of death for either body.

In recent years, several mass graves have been discovered in Libya. In December 2018, the bodies of more than 30 men were discovered near Sirte, believed to be the corpses of a group of Ethiopian Christian Islamic State fighters executed in a video the group released years earlier. In the western city of Tarhuna, hundreds of bodies were discovered in various graves after militants loyal to Libyan military leader General Khalifa Hifter withdrew from the area in June 2020.

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Libya was plunged into turmoil after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed Gaddafi in 2011. For years, the country has been divided between rival administrations, each backed by rebel militias and foreign governments. Recent months have seen an increase in deadly clashes between militias.

In Tripoli, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has refused to resign after Libya failed to hold elections last year. His rival, Prime Minister Fathy Bashagha, operates from the eastern city of Benghazi after failed attempts to install his government in the capital.

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