AP NEWS

Refugees fear for lives amid fighting in western Libya

December 27, 2019 GMT

CAIRO (AP) — An Eritrean refugee and an aid worker say that heavy fighting has put a Libyan detention center packed with refugees at risk as militias also use the center as an army barracks.

The refugee sent audio and text messages from inside the Al-Nasr Martyrs detention center in the western city of Zawiya, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the capital Tripoli. The sound of heavy gunfire can be heard in the background.

Since April, Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter’s forces have waged an offensive against Tripoli, where the internationally recognized Government of National Accord is based.

The Eritrean refugee, who has been held in the detention center for about three years, told The Associated Press: “We are surrounded by war ... airstrikes.”

The migrant spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the militiamen who control the center. Most migrants stuck in Libya’s in detention system do not disclose their identities for fear of their own safety and often that of their families back home, where some are fleeing persecution.

An aid worker confirmed the fighting is close to the detention center. He spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

Hifter is aligned with a rival government in the east. His forces have only been able to lay siege to Tripoli, failing to claim it from the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.