Libya trafficker's militia in deadly clash with security forces

AFP , Sunday 17 Sep 2017

A Libyan militia led by a former people trafficker clashed Sunday with security forces at a checkpoint in the western city of Sabratha, leaving one dead, a security official said.

The violence pitted the militia of former smuggler Ahmad Dabbashi, who controls almost half of Sabratha, against the forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), the source said.

Four militiamen opened fire on the checkpoint, according to the official. "Our men retaliated, and one of the militiamen was killed and three others wounded."

The source, speaking to AFP by telephone against the background noise of gunfire and explosions, said Dabbashi's militiamen returned, sparking fresh clashes.

The militia was not immediately reachable for comment on the incident.

Libya has plunged into insecurity and political chaos since the ouster and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed 2011 revolution.

People smugglers have fed on the chaos, turning violence-wracked Libya into a key gateway for illegal migration to Europe.

Sabratha, 40 kilometres (45 miles) west of Tripoli, where the GNA is based, is Libya's main departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe.

Dabbashi is reportedly among several people smugglers who have decided to halt their lucrative smuggling and cooperate with authorities.

In July, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti proposed a pact with Libya to combat human trafficking during a visit to Tripoli to meet mayors of cities affected by the scourge.

But he has denied making any direct or indirect contact with people smugglers.

The number of migrants who have reached Italy from Libya since mid-July has fallen dramatically to 6,500, just 15 percent of the average for the same period in the previous three years.

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