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Libyan mass burial victims’ families call for justice

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Three years after he was discovered in a mass burial, a picture of Mourad Allafi is still hanging in the farmhouse of the family in western Libya. His father wants the murderers to perish.

In February, a military court sentenced 30 murderers to jail terms ranging from six years to life. According to Mohamad Allafi, these sentences are insufficient.

And the families of the hundreds of other victims who were murdered, tortured, and buried in Tarhuna’s endless rows of mass graves concur with him.

Only the death sentence, according to the families of those killed in the mass murders, can lessen the suffering of those who lost children who were “in cold blood” slain.

Although the death sentence is still legal in Libya, it is not frequently used.

After Moamer Kadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, many families in Libya are still suffering from the years of injustice and violence that followed.

The fall of the ruler brought anarchy to the nation of North Africa.

Tarhuna, a town with a population of 40,000 people located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Tripoli, stands noted due to the atrocities carried out there.

After seizing control of Tarhuna in 2015, a dreaded militia known as the Kaniyat—named after the six brothers who led it—started methodically putting down rivals and frequently their entire families.

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It was rumored that the Al-Kani brothers fed the flesh of their victims to the lions they kept during their reign of terror.

The day his 30-year-old son was kidnapped by the Kaniyat in 2019 is a day Mohamad Allafi will never forget.

He replied in a shaking voice, “I called him hundreds of times that night, but in vain.

  • Looking for dead bodies

According to his father, Mourad had “stayed well away from politics and militias”.

His only transgression, in the view of the Kaniyat, was possessing an ID card proving his tribal affiliation with the Na’aji tribe, which was opposed to the militia’s brutal control over the town.

The Al-Kani brothers supported Tripoli-based militias for a while.

But in 2019, military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who was located in the east, began an attack on the capital, and the clan changed sides, offering him Tarhuna as a rear base.

The Al-Kanis vanished after Haftar’s forces were defeated a year later.

Locals in Tarhuna believe the remaining three brothers are currently hiding in Benghazi, Egypt, or Jordan. Three of the brothers, including Mohamed, their commander, were killed.

After the Al-Kanis left Tarhuna, the locals began searching for mass graves. In an effort to locate evidence of the numerous missing, they desperately scraped away at the hard ochre soil with spades.

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Of the 350 bodies found, Mourad Allafi’s was one.

The agency for the missing in Libya has so far located 226 sets of remains and is still looking for more at three key locations.

In the upcoming weeks, a second trial for scores of other people suspected of taking part in the Tarhuna massacres is scheduled to come to an end.

However, many residents of the town do not believe that this will provide them with closure.

Three requirements

“The military prosecutor’s office tried people for the crimes in Tarhuna and delivered unjust and insufficient verdicts,” Mossab Abou Kleich of an association of victims’ families said in reference to the verdict from February.

They ought to have received a death sentence, he argued.

Abou Kleich continued, “No family is satisfied with just prison terms for those proven to be directly responsible for killing hundreds of civilians.

Punishment “commensurate with the crime that was committed” was his demand.

The three primary demands of the families, according to Abou Kleich, are “finding the missing, pursuing and prosecuting the criminals, and reparations”.

He contends that in order to reduce ethnic tensions in Tarhuna and put an end to this terrible chapter in the town’s history, the government should give financial compensation to families whose property was damaged first priority.

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The Tarhuna tragedy will continue to have an impact on people’s lives, regardless of the outcome of the legal processes.

“My wife and I have been ill ever since Mourad was killed. “My wife is bedridden from the excruciating pain, and I have diabetes and hypertension,” said Allafi, standing alongside his younger son Abdelhakim.

Mahmoud al-Marghani still struggles to explain to his nieces and nephews, who are now seven, ten, and fourteen years old, why their father Khaled vanished in June 2019.

Three unidentified males kidnapped the 59-year-old from his home and pushed him into a sizable 4X4. He still isn’t home.

When they enquire about their father, Marghani replies, “He went on a trip.

The fact that one of the “criminals admitted torturing and killing him” is something he cannot bring himself to tell them.

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Staff Writer
Staff Writer
Tell the stories as they are as well as what is hidden in the stories in order to place the true cards on the table.

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