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Shadow Of Murderous Brothers Hangs Over Libyan Town

“They spared no children, women or old men,” said Mohammed Amer, mourning those killed by six brothers who dominated the city of Libya with blood during the reign of terror.

“I was the father of the martyr Moaid and was killed by cold-blooded criminal gangs in Kanyat,” said Amer, a silver-haired father in his fifties.

Kanyat was a gang of six brothers who commanded militias who not only systematically executed enemies but also slaughtered the entire family, hurting the war-torn town of Tarhunah in Libya.

Those who did not kill succumbed to obedience.





Libyan sees poster depicting family members who commanded the militia that injured the town of Tarhunah
AFP / Mahmud Turkia

The brothers paraded the town with a show of power-two stringed lions roared in the crowd.

Libya has been devastated by conflict since the fall and murder of veteran dictator Mu’ammar Al-Kadafi in a NATO-backed 2011 rebellion, with armed groups and militia standing up to fill the void.

In Tarhunah, it was the Arcani militia, also known as Kaniyat, who came to power in 2015.



Funeral of 12 people found in a mass grave in Tarhunah, southeastern capital


Funeral of 12 people found in a mass grave in Tarhunah, southeastern capital
AFP / Mahmud Turkia

The brothers lost power last year, but their shadows still lie in the town.



Libyan people gather on a wall poster depicting a family victim during a funeral procession of 12 bodies identified from a mass grave found in the town of Tarhunah.


Libyan people gather on a wall poster depicting a family victim during a funeral procession of 12 bodies identified from a mass grave found in the town of Tarhunah.
AFP / Mahmud Turkia

After they were banished, the digger began excavating the bodies of the people they slaughtered.

Several mass graves have been excavated in a rural area about 80 km (50 miles) southeast of the capital Tripoli.

Some bodies were blindfolded with their wrists tied.

Like many of the dusty townsfolk, Amel hopes that the latest bodies will be dug up.

On the wall near the mosque, where 10 ambulances are parked on a tree-lined palm tree road, there is a poster in the image of Tarhunah’s “martyr”.



Abandoned villa complex used by the Kaniyat brothers


Abandoned villa complex used by the Kaniyat brothers
AFP / Mahmud Turkia

Some posters are for small children.

The last convoy robbed 13 bodies.

“Most of Tarhunah’s sons are in the soil,” Amel said.



Mohammed Amer's son Moaid was killed by militia


Mohammed Amer’s son Moaid was killed by militia
AFP / Mahmud Turkia

So far, 140 bodies have been excavated in a slow process that began in June 2020 after the town was occupied by Khalifa Haftar, a leading figure in eastern Libya.



Shown in January, the Libyans are checking the news of their loved ones in the forensic department of the Tripoli Medical Center, checking the belongings of people found in mass graves around Tarhuna.


Shown in January, the Libyans are checking the news of their loved ones in the forensic department of the Tripoli Medical Center, checking the belongings of people found in mass graves around Tarhuna.
AFP /-

Kanyat was the first to support an internationally supported government based in Tripoli.

However, when Haftar’s army used Tarhunah as the starting point for an attack on the capital in April 2019, Kanyat switched loyalty.

They chose the losing side.

“The truth has been revealed,” Amel said. “We now want them to be arrested and brought to justice, otherwise there can be no reconciliation.”

Human Rights Watch states that during Kaniyat’s five-year reign, at least 338 people were reported kidnapped or missing.

“People reported that militias often opposed or suspected of doing so kidnapped, detained, tortured, killed, and disappeared,” HRW said.

Haroda Issa, a human rights activist who lost his family in the hands of militias, said the Crab brothers called for shooters from Bedouin nomads to fight with guns and cash.

“They took advantage of their poverty and were surrounded by Henchmans who gave them weapons and money,” he said.

Hundreds of people have recently gathered in the town square to see the latest bodies excavated, wrapped in shrouds and carried on stretchers.

“Kanyat ruled the city with an iron fist,” said Mirad Mohammed Abdelge, an old man in a black robe, who came in memory of the two who wanted to disappear when the brothers were in charge. Dar said.

“No one had the right to speak … they had eyes everywhere.”

Few bodies were readily identifiable, but forensic experts gathered as much evidence as possible, including DNA samples, prior to formal burial.

The crowd prayed for the dead, and after a long silence, a voice screamed through a megaphone demanding that they try the “Arcani Terrorist Crime Group.”

“Sooner or later God will give them justice,” Abdelgader quietly said, his index finger pointing to heaven before tears.

But the militia has so far avoided justice.

Two of the brothers have been killed and the remaining four (including leader Mohammed al-Kani) are on the run.

Many of Tarhunah claim to be hiding in Benghazi in the east.

“No one has been held accountable yet,” said HRW researcher Hannan Sarah.

Today, the militia commander’s luxury villa is in ruins.

Along the rough road, a graffiti reminiscent of the “martyr” who was slaughtered after the luxurious marble villa of the Arcani brothers was destroyed by a cannonball is drawn.

“Kanyat seized two factories and several businesses, forcing wealthy families to obtain their property,” said one resident in military uniform.

“They were pretending to pick up with their wildlife, and they terrorized the city. All this, for what? For money.”



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