Over 250 thousand refugees displaced by Libya’s violence

A United Nations report on Thursday said four months of fighting by militias in Libya’s two biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, has forced some 250 000 people to flee, including 100 000 who have been internally displaced.

The report released by the UN Support Mission in Libya and the UN Human Rights Office estimated that some 150 000 people, including migrant workers, have fled the country. The report says a “climate of fear” has made citizens reluctant to speak about militia abuses.

The last four months have seen a renegade general battle Islamic militants in the eastern city of Benghazi – cradle of the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi – and powerful regional militias fight for control of the international airport in Tripoli. Islamist-allied militias have seized virtually all of the capital.

The surge of violence is the worst in Libya since rebels backed by Nato warplanes overthrew and killed Gaddafi. The conflict is rooted in subsequent transitional governments’ reliance on web of militias – many of them former rebel brigades – to restore order after Libya’s regular army and police were shattered by the uprising.

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