Thursday, 2/7/2020 | 11:29 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Libya death toll rises, Islamist militants exploit chaos

GENEVA/TRIPOLI Casualties from the battle for Tripoli mounted on Tuesday as a group loyal to Daesh killed three people in Libya's remote center showing how militants may exploit renewed chaos.

The United Nations' health body said local facilities had reported 47 people killed and 181 wounded in recent days as eastern forces seek to take Libya's coastal capital from an internationally-recognized government.

That was a higher toll than numbers given by either side, and appeared to be mainly fighters, although it also included some civilians including two doctors, World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a Geneva news briefing.

The eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of Khalifa Haftar � a former general in ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi's army � seized the largely desert south earlier this year before heading to Tripoli this month, where they are ensconced on the southern side.

The government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, 59, is seeking to block them with the help of armed groups who have rushed from Misrata in pickup trucks fitted with machine guns.

The United Nations, United States, European Union and G7 bloc have all appealed for a ceasefire and return to a U.N. peace plan, but Haftar has so far not heeded them.

Far south of Tripoli, a group loyal to the Daesh attacked the town of Fuqaha, killing three people and kidnapping another before leaving, residents said.

Fuqaha is controlled by fighters loyal to Haftar, who casts himself as a foe of Islamic extremism though he is viewed by opponents as a new dictator in the mould of Gaddafi.

Daesh has been active in Libya in the turmoil since the Western-backed overthrow of Gaddafi eight years ago.

It took control of the coastal city of Sirte in 2015 but lost it late in 2016 to local forces backed by U.S. air strikes, and now operates in the shadows.