(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
“While the world’s attention is focused on atrocities in Syria and Iraq, ISIS is also getting away with murder in Libya.”
ISIS militants have executed dozens of people in their Libyan stronghold Sirte since February 2015, according to the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
On Wednesday Human Rights Watch accused ISIS of unlawfully executing at least 49 people in the coastal city of Sirte by means such as decapitation and shooting.
“Those killed, by means such as decapitating and shooting, include captive fighters, political opponents, and people ISIS accused of “spying,” “sorcery,” and “insulting God.”
In addition, the advocacy group stated that the extremist group was inflicting severe hardship on the local population by withholding food, medicine, fuel and cash from residents who fled and instead giving them to ISIS fighters.
“As if beheading and shooting perceived enemies isn’t enough, ISIS is causing terrible suffering in Sirte even for Muslims who follow its rules,” said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 45 former and current Sirte residents in March who described scenes of horror, including “public beheadings, corpses in orange jumpsuits hanging from scaffolding in what they referred to as “crucifixions,” and masked fighters snatching men from their beds in the night.
After taking the city, ISIS handed out a 13-point rulebook and seized public funds. In return for personal safety, residents had to comply with its rulings, based on the group’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
ISIS militants were able to start establishing their stronghold in Sirte, former dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown, in February 2015 by taking advantage of the chaos in Libya as rival militias and governments battled for power after the ousting of Gaddafi in 2011. The extremist group was able to fully take control of the city by August, including its port and air base.
Sirte has become ISIS’s largest stronghold outside of Iraq and Syria, and up to 6000 ISIS militants are reported to be in Libya, and Human Rights Watch called on all parties responsible in Libya to take measures to protect civilians from harm, in accordance with the laws of war.
Western countries fear that ISIS could use the city’s port and airbase, which is just 100 kilometers from European shores, to launch attacks on the continent.
The report comes after the United States along with other world powers pledged their support to Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and agreed to supply the new government with arms and military training to aid in their battle against ISIS.
ISIS fighters overran the Abur Grein checkpoint and captured several nearby villages on May 5 after carrying out suicide attacks.
The GNA has launched Operation Strong Foundation against ISIS forces in the region between Misrata and Sirte and have recaptured the main checkpoint in Abu Grein on Tuesday, which is 140 kilometres on the main road west of Sirte.