An armed group loyal to the Tripoli-based national unity government said Wednesday it had arrested a six-member gang accused of kidnapping and torturing eight Sudanese migrants near the northern city of Sirte.
The gang, made up of "five Libyans and one Palestinian... had tortured eight migrants," said the Sirte Security and Protection Force.
The arrests took place in Qaddahiya, a village 130 kilometers south of Sirte, "after the publication of a video on social media showing scenes of African migrants undergoing unbearable torture", it said.
The video shows the migrants being severely burned by their captors, who demand ransoms from their families.
A source from the Security and Protection Force told Asharq Al-Awsat that the kidnappers are being questioned by the public prosecutor’s office.
“The Force won’t allow (any side) to cause harm to any citizen, whether a Libyan or a migrant,” said the source.
The migrants are being treated at the Ibn Sina Hospital in Sirte, the Force said.
Sudan’s foreign ministry had summoned the Libyan charge d’affaires in Khartoum after the video began circulating on social media to protest the torture of the Sudanese migrants.
The foreign ministry of the national unity government also sought to contain a wave of anger by African and Western states by launching an investigation into the case.
The head of the unity government, Fayez al-Sarraj, announced in December 2016 the liberation of Sirte from ISIS although he said at the time that “the war against terrorism has not ended yet.”
Libya has long been a transit hub for migrants seeking a better life in Europe, but people smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business in the chaos since the 2011 revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.
Last year alone, 3,116 people died attempting the crossing, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), including 2,833 from Libya.