Libya’s rival leaders kicked off a U.N.-brokered prisoner exchange, United Nations and Libyan officials said Saturday, which was part of a preliminary cease-fire agreement between the warring Libyan groups.
The exchange of a first batch of prisoners, supervised by a joint military committee, took place Friday in the southwestern village of al-Shwayrif, according to the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, or UNSMIL.
Libya is split between a U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in country’s east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.
The oil-rich country was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
In April 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Hifter and his forces launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli, a campaign that collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the U.N.-supported government. Turkey deployed hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries to back up its Libyan allies.
The two sides signed a nationwide, U.N.-brokered cease-fire deal in October that included an exchange of all war prisoners.
UNSMIL announced the prisoner exchange without giving details on how many prisoners were freed for each side. It called for both sides to speed up the implementation of the cease-fire deal, including the exchange of all prisoners.
The cease-fire deal also included the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya within three months.
However, no progress was announced on the issue of foreign forces and mercenaries two months after they inked the deal.
Thousands of foreign fighters, including Russians, Syrians, Sudanese and Chadians, have been brought to Libya by both sides, according to U.N. experts.
The cease-fire deal also called for “military deals on training inside Libya” to be frozen and for foreign trainees to leave the country. It did not name a particular country but apparently referred to Turkey, which has struck military and disputed maritime deals last year with the Tripoli administration.
Main Photo: EPA/STR
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