Advertisement

U.S. blames roadside bombs in Libya on Russian-backed mercenaries

U.S. Africa Command said on Wednesday that mines and improvised explosive devices, linked to a Russian military group, were discovered in cities across Libya. Photo courtesy of AFRICOM
U.S. Africa Command said on Wednesday that mines and improvised explosive devices, linked to a Russian military group, were discovered in cities across Libya. Photo courtesy of AFRICOM

July 15 (UPI) -- Russian-backed mercenaries planted roadside bombs in Libyan cities despite a ceasefire, U.S. Africa Command said on Wednesday, citing photographic evidence.

A Russian paramilitary organization known as the Wagner Group indiscriminately installed landmines and improvised explosive devices in Tripoli, Sirte and other cities in support of the Libyan National Army militia led by warlord Khalifa Hifter, AFRICOM said in a statement.

Advertisement

Hifter's forces are fighting Libya's Western-supported government in Libya, U.S. officials said.

AFRICOM offered photographs of the found devices, noting that "these weapons are assessed to have been introduced into Libya by the Wagner Group." It added that "Russian-sponsored PMCs [private military companies] are active in 16 countries across Africa."

RELATED U.N.: At least eight mass graves discovered in Libya

Libya has seen internal conflict since 2011, when NATO helped topple the government of Moammar Gadhafi. Several rival factions have sought control of the country.

In May, at least 14 MiG-29 fighter planes flew from Russia to Syria, and after their Russian markings were removed, arrived in Libya, a violation of a United Nations arms embargo.

"The Russian-state sponsored Wagner Group is demonstrating a total disregard for the safety and security of Libyans," U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, AFRICAM commander, said on Wednesday. "The Wagner Group's irresponsible tactics are prolonging conflict and are responsible for the needless suffering and the deaths of innocent civilians. Russia has the power to stop them, just not the will."

Advertisement
RELATED U.N.-backed Libyan government retakes Tarhuna; 106 bodies found in hospital

The Wagner Group has about 2,000 members in Libya, AFRICOM said. It operated in support of the Syrian government during the country's civil war, and supported separatist forces in Ukraine's Donbass and Luhansk states.

RELATED Libya's GNA takes full control of Tripoli

Latest Headlines