In Tarhuna, the rural Libyan city located 60 kilometers southeast of Tripoli, where olive trees decorate the hills rising from the Libyan coastal plain, which was taken by the war leader Khalifa Haftar as a center to launch his attack on Tripoli; The people are still searching for their dead, and the city is still living in shock.
The British Middle East Eye website has published a lengthy report on the city, in which Haftar’s forces have transformed their rich fields into mass graves, and buried beneath them a large number of victims of all ages and backgrounds.
According to the report, about 80 bodies were found in two and a half months only, 56 of them were in one farm, and officials believe that 3 times this number are still under the fields and orchards of Tarhuna.
“We still have a lot to dig,” said Tarhuna Mayor Muhammad Ali Al-Kosher. Only 20 percent of this area has been excavated. People of all backgrounds have been killed and buried here, including a 10-year-old, and we still find new bodies every day. They buried a man with his car, with his hands tied at the steering wheel. “
According to the mayor, the excavation and search for the bodies of victims may take at least a year to excavate all suspected sites, especially in the absence of good equipment and necessary international support.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, had earlier called for a “transparent investigation” shortly after the discovery of mass graves in Tarhuna, but the city has so far received little help.
The teams tasked with searching for corpses and mass graves continue to search for signs of underground victims, such as a chemical change in the soil, piles of dirt accumulated nearby, or odors indicating the presence of bodies.
The website report included many testimonies of survivors of the killings in Tarhuna, as well as testimonies from members of the families of the victims and the missing, most of which revolved around the crimes committed by Haftar’s allies, led by the sons of al-Kani who led a criminal gang allied with Haftar’s militia, and they are 7 brothers led by Muhammad al-Kani and his brother Mohsen al-Kani, the obstinate military who led the Al-Kani family’s attacks on Tripoli during Haftar’s attack on the city, and also led his family’s attack on Tripoli from the summer of 2018 due to a dispute over state revenues.
According to the report, the people of Al-Kani practiced mass killing, imprisonment, torture, burning and enforced disappearance against the residents of Tarhuna, and a prison in the city is still witness to the atrocities they committed against the city’s residents.
Ahmed Abdel Mawla Saeed Abdel Hafeez, a resident of Tarhouna who survived the oppression of Haftar and his allies, fled the city with the help of his friend after the arrest of his brothers, who never returned, and when he returned, he found that his friend who helped him escape was also killed.
Ahmed told Middle East Eye, “I lost 5 siblings at the hands of al-Kani’s sons, and I also lost a friend who was more than a brother. There was no clear reason for their arrest. We are businessmen, and we are not from al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood.”
According to the report, some residents of Tarhuna still avoid reporting the loss of their relatives and friends, because some of those who see themselves as accomplices with the sons of Alkani can still be seen in the city.
“Do not leave men.”
Among the families grieving the loss of their loved ones, the report cited the story of the children of the Jaballah family, whose vision of men carrying weapons is still beyond their ability to bear, as they enter crying fits and hide whenever members of the security services pass in front of their home.
One of the family members, Tariq Ali al-Jaballah, was killed by a bullet in the street in front of his young son last December, and the next day the children of al-Kani were arrested 10 members of his family.
According to the site, Sabri al-Gharib – who was loyal to the late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and who led the attack on the Jaballah family – issued the order to his men, saying, “Do not leave men.”
“I lost my husband, 4 of my brothers, my uncle, and 4 of my cousins,” said a woman from the family – Rabia al-Jaballah, as she beat her tears. “I am still afraid.”
According to the Tripoli-based Public Authority for Search and Identification of Missing Persons, about 270 people have been reported missing in Tarhuna, but the Director of International Cooperation at the Foundation, Dr.Mohammed Al-Zalitni, estimates that there are 150 unreported cases for fear of reprisals that still loom over the city.