HRW: Russia’s Wagner Group Set Landmines in Libya

Libyan deminers stand around a pickup truck with boxes of dismantled mines and remnants of other explosives in Salah al-Din, south of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, June 15, 2020. AFP
Libyan deminers stand around a pickup truck with boxes of dismantled mines and remnants of other explosives in Salah al-Din, south of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, June 15, 2020. AFP
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HRW: Russia’s Wagner Group Set Landmines in Libya

Libyan deminers stand around a pickup truck with boxes of dismantled mines and remnants of other explosives in Salah al-Din, south of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, June 15, 2020. AFP
Libyan deminers stand around a pickup truck with boxes of dismantled mines and remnants of other explosives in Salah al-Din, south of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, June 15, 2020. AFP

The Wagner Group, a private Russian military security contractor, has used banned landmines and booby traps near Tripoli, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

“New information from Libyan agencies and demining groups links the Wagner Group to the use of banned landmines and booby traps in Libya in 2019-2020,” it said in a report.

HRW therefore called on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, to examine the role of Libyan and foreign armed groups in laying antipersonnel mines during the conflict.

“These mines killed at least three Libyan de-miners before the mines’ locations were identified,” HRW stressed.

Lama Fakih, HRW Middle East and North Africa director, said the Wagner Group added to the deadly legacy of mines and booby traps scattered across Tripoli’s suburbs that has made it dangerous for people to return to their homes.

“A credible and transparent international inquiry is needed to ensure justice for the many civilians and deminers unlawfully killed and maimed by these weapons,” she said.

Fakih added that antipersonnel landmines, which are designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity, or contact of a person, violate international humanitarian law because they cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants.

HRW’s report said the mines and booby traps found at the 35 coordinates were hidden inside homes and other structures, in some cases inside furniture and were often activated with a tripwire that was not visible.

Mine experts also told the NGO that the mines and booby traps apparently constructed by Wagner operatives were more sophisticated and lethal than those laid by Libyan, Sudanese, or Syrian groups.

According to the Libyan Mine Action Center, LibMAC, of the 130 people killed and 196 injured in Libya between May 2020 and March 2022 by mines and other explosive ordnance, most were civilians in Tripoli’s southern suburbs.

In this regard, Fakih said, “Independent of an international inquiry, Libyan courts need to impartially investigate and appropriately prosecute commanders and fighters – including foreigners – for war crimes in Libya.”

Meanwhile, the Libyan Oil and Gas Ministry warned on Tuesday from the outcomes of closing the country’s major oil fields and ports on Libya’s economy and the infrastructure of the oil sector.

A committee formed by the ministry to investigate the closure of oil ports and fields confirmed that civilian groups are not connected to the closure process.

“A military entity is behind the shutting down of oil fields. This entity is represented by the Petroleum Facilities Guard, which took instructions from certain political parties,” it said.



Israel Bombs Gaza after US Criticizes High Civilian Toll

Palestinians inspect at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in the central Gaza Strip, July 16, 2024. REUTERS/Ramadan Abed
Palestinians inspect at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in the central Gaza Strip, July 16, 2024. REUTERS/Ramadan Abed
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Israel Bombs Gaza after US Criticizes High Civilian Toll

Palestinians inspect at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in the central Gaza Strip, July 16, 2024. REUTERS/Ramadan Abed
Palestinians inspect at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in the central Gaza Strip, July 16, 2024. REUTERS/Ramadan Abed

Israel renewed its bombardment of the Gaza Strip Tuesday, after the United States renewed its criticism of its ally over the high civilian casualty toll of the war.

Residents told AFP of Israeli warplanes striking central Gaza and artillery fire hitting the territory's south, while medics said they pulled multiple bodies from the rubble of the latest bombardment.

Hours earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told two top Israeli officials that casualties among Palestinian civilians "still remain unacceptably high".

"We continue to see far too many civilians killed in this conflict," spokesman Matthew Miller said after Blinken meth Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

Washington has been pushing for a truce between Israel and Hamas.

But Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said Sunday that the group was pulling out of indirect talks for a deal in protest at recent Israeli "massacres", including a massive strike on Sunday that the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said killed at least 92 people.

Haniyeh said Hamas stood ready to return to the indirect talks once Israel "demonstrates seriousness in reaching a ceasefire agreement and a prisoner exchange deal".

After the latest deadly strikes, medics from the Palestinian Red Crescent said they recovered four bodies from a house outside the southern city of Khan Yunis and another from Nuseirat camp in the central Gaza.

The Israeli military said that over the previous 24 hours its air force struck "approximately 40 terror targets" in Gaza. They included "sniping posts, observation posts, Hamas military structures, terror infrastructure, and buildings rigged with explosives".

It said its troops were also continuing targeted raids in the far-southern city of Rafah and in the central Gaza Strip.