Aid group says Libyan militia is holding hostage 60 migrants

CAIRO (AP) - A Libyan armed group is holding at least 60 migrants, including two dozen children, hostage in "appalling" conditions after being abducted nearly two weeks ago, an aid group said Saturday.
According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, masked militiamen abducted the migrants on September 28 from the city of al-Ajaylat, about 80 kilometers west of the capital Tripoli. The statement said the armed group initially took around 350 migrants, mostly from West Africa, hostage, but most migrants escaped while some others were released.
The relief group said it had informed the Libyan government agency about fighting illegal migration two days after the kidnapping and later visited the warehouse where the migrants were being held.
"We found over 350 women, children and men who were sleeping on the floor in appalling living conditions with no access to water, showers or toilets," said Guillaume Baret, MSF mission director in Libya.
Militia stole valuable items and identification documents from migrants before taking them to a warehouse guarded by armed men in the nearby coastal town of Sabratha, the largest starting point for the mostly African migrants making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, the group said.
The Switzerland-based organization, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said the remaining hostages are being held by militia at a former military base.
Two Sabratha residents and a migrant said most of the armed men belonged to a militia called Al-Ammu, which the United States Panel of Experts on Libya identified as the main promoter of human trafficking in 2017. The migrant said the militiamen are likely to demand ransom from families of the detained migrants or sell them to other traffickers.
Al-Ammu and another militia, Brigade 48, are led by two brothers from the large al-Dabashi family in the region. Both militias are affiliated with the United States-backed government in Tripoli.
Residents and migrants spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. A spokesman for the Tripoli-based Ministry of the Interior did not answer calls and comments.
The aid group said their doctors are only allowed to consult with women and children among the captive migrants, and they are not allowed to treat men. After an attempt to escape, a shootout reportedly broke out on October 2, killing at least three people.
"The situation in the camp was tense and armed men fired shots in the air," added the group's statement.
The kidnapping of migrants shows the dangers that refugees and migrants face in war-torn Libya. Those trapped in the country cannot "escape violence or find safety," according to MSF.
Libya has become an important transit point for African and Arab migrants who fled violence and poverty to Europe after the North African country broke into civil war following the fall and murder of longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011.

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