Libyan militia leader wanted by ICC for war crimes killed by gunmen

Libyan militia leader Mahmoud al-Werfalli, wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, was shot dead in the eastern city of Benghazi on Wednesday, security sources said.

Werfalli, a member of forces loyal to Eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar, “was shot dead with his cousin, Ayman, when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his car,” said a source requesting anonymity.

The couple were seriously injured before being pronounced dead on arrival at Benghazi Medical Center, which is close to the shooting site, another security source said.

The ICC issued a first order for Werfalli’s arrest in August 2017, accusing him of ordering or personally carrying out seven separate executions of 33 people in 2016 and 2017.

ICC judges referred to videos that allegedly show Werfalli personally shooting prisoners with a hood and tying or ordering a firing squad to open fire on them.

In July 2018, the ICC issued a second arrest warrant for Werfalli for his “alleged responsibility for murder as a war crime”.

The court said he “allegedly shot dead 10 people in front of the Bi’at al-Radwan Mosque” in Benghazi on January 24 that year.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council in November 2019 that Werfalli enjoyed “his freedom in the Benghazi region”, having been promoted earlier that year from major to lieutenant colonel in Haftar’s force.

Born in 1978, Werfalli was the commander of the Al-Saiqa Brigade, an elite unit that jumped out of the Libyan military during the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed dictator Moamer Gadhafi.

Libya has been embroiled in chaos and repeated conflicts for decades since then, with the main divisions in recent years pitting a Tripoli-based government against an administration in the east loyal to Haftar.

However, the fighting stopped last summer and a formal ceasefire in October has been followed by the creation of a new government for national unity.

This month, the two rival authorities formally handed over power to the new entity, which has the mandate to steer the country to the December elections.

However, the security situation is still unclear in Benghazi, the main eastern city.

Two other Libyans remain wanted by the ICC – Seif al-Islam Kadhafi, the son of the country’s ex-dictator, and Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, former head of the Internal Security Agency.

The fate of Seif al-Islam, who has long been seen as a successor to his father, remains a mystery, despite the ICC saying in November 2019 that it had “reliable information” that he was in the Libyan city of Zintan.