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For Libyans, Benghazi Is A City That Has Come Under Brutal And Chaotic Rule

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And we have an update now out of Benghazi, Libya, where the U.S. Consulate was attacked in 2012. One of the perpetrators of that attack was captured yesterday by U.S. commandos. That is according to the Trump administration. And this comes just days after dozens of dead bodies were discovered near that city. Here's NPR's Ruth Sherlock.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: A photo of the scene shows corpses scattered on a patch of dirt. Some are face down, some on their side. Their hands are tied behind their backs. There are bullet wounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They shot my brother in his legs and his head from the back, and break his arms and his wrists.

SHERLOCK: This is the brother of one of the victims. He's in Britain now, but we're not using his name for the safety of his family, who are still in Benghazi. He tells me his brother kept out of politics. He worked as a civil engineer, and yet, one night, masked men came to his home and snatched him before dawn.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We don't know. We don't know who told them, and who done this and why. There's a big question mark why they done this.

SHERLOCK: Hanan Salah, the senior Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch, says so far, one thing that victims seem to have in common is that they tried to keep out of the ongoing war.

HANAN SALAH: They did not participate in the 2014 conflict on the side of Haftar, meaning that they were not with them, but they were also not against him.

SHERLOCK: Khalifa Haftar is Libya's new military strongman. His men have now seized Benghazi and much of the east of the country, including the area where the bodies were found. The brother of the victim who I spoke with believes Haftar's men are responsible. He said soldiers from Haftar's Libyan National Army militia even stopped his family from holding a funeral.

Residents say a fear has settled on Benghazi. Salah from Human Rights Watch has documented a huge increase in such murders in the last year. Orders for these murders may not come from the top. There are several different, often competing, militias under Haftar. But, Salah says, leaders of these groups have done little to stop this.

SALAH: The senior management of the Libyan National Army forces - they haven't shown any real, genuine willingness to address this issue and put an end to any of these horrific crimes that are happening right under our noses.

SHERLOCK: And so the violence continues. Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, Beirut.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAMIKREST'S "ADDEKTEGH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.