UN: Libya’s rivals swap prisoners, part of cease-fire deal
CAIRO (AP) - Libya's rivals have launched a US-brokered prisoner exchange that was part of a ceasefire agreement they signed in Geneva over two months ago, the United Nations and Libyan officials said.
The exchange of a first group of detainees monitored by a joint military committee took place on Friday in the southwestern village of al-Shwayrif, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
Libya is divided into a United States-backed government in the capital Tripoli in the west of the North African country and rival authorities in the east. The two sides are supported by a number of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.
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The oil-rich country was in chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising in which longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed.
In April 2019, Commander Khalifa Hifter, stationed in the east, and his armed forces launched an offensive to capture Tripoli. This campaign stalled after months of fighting and finally collapsed in June. Hifter's forces have since retreated to the coastal town of Sirte.
The two sides signed a nationwide US-brokered ceasefire agreement in October that included the exchange of all prisoners of war.
UNSMIL announced the prisoner exchange without providing any information on how many prisoners were released for each side. She called on both sides to speed up the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, including the exchange of all prisoners.
Fathi Bashaga, the powerful home secretary of the United States-backed government, welcomed the exchange in a tweet and included photos of released prisoners.
The Tripoli Protection Unit, a militia allied with the capital's government, also released a 31-second video apparently showing the prisoner exchange, with an officer reading the names of those released.
The ceasefire agreement also included the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya within three months.
However, two months after the agreement was signed, no progress was announced in terms of foreign forces and mercenaries.
According to experts from the United States of America, thousands of foreign fighters, including Russians, Syrians, Sudanese and Chadians, have been brought to Libya by both sides.
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