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Amnesty: Hundreds Trapped in Libya     09/30 06:23

   An international rights group expressed alarm Friday over the fate of 
hundreds of Libyan and foreign nationals trapped for months amid fighting in 
the eastern city of Benghazi.

   CAIRO (AP) -- An international rights group expressed alarm Friday over the 
fate of hundreds of Libyan and foreign nationals trapped for months amid 
fighting in the eastern city of Benghazi.

   Amnesty International said that nearly 130 families and hundreds of 
foreigners in the southwestern Benghazi neighborhood of Ganfouda have been cut 
off from the outside world, with dwindling food and fuel supplies.

   "Time is running out for civilians in Ganfouda, who are being left to die 
trapped by the fighting," said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director of Amnesty's 
Middle East and North Africa Program.

   The fighting has raged in Benghazi since 2014 when forces commanded by 
powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter began a campaign against militants 
there, including branches of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Hifter, 
supported by British, French, and American military advisers and special 
forces, has managed to take control over much of the city. Ganfouda is one of 
the few districts where the militants have put up fierce resistance against 
Hifter's National Libyan Army forces.

   However, international groups have been appealing for the creation of safe 
corridors to evacuate civilians trapped in Ganfouda.

   Amnesty quoted a resident who identified himself as Mohamed as saying that 
residents are in desperate need for humanitarian supplies, especially the 
youngest residents.

   "The children look like skin and bones because of the lack of food and poor 
nutrition. If they could just drop us some food for the children or get them 
out of here, even if that meant leaving the rest of us, that would be fine," he 
said.

   Residents have taken to hosting displaced families whose houses were 
destroyed by airstrikes and shelling.

   "We're living like animals," according to another resident whom Amnesty 
identified as Samir. He added that he has taken three families into his house 
bringing the number of residents to 24.

   Amnesty feared that civilians caught in crossfire are facing mass 
punishment, under the pretext that they are supporters or sympathizers of the 
extremist Islamic militants.

   "Civilians should not be used as human shields, and those who wish to leave 
must be protected from arbitrary detention, torture or any other abuses," said 
Mughrabi.


(KA)

 
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