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UN says Libya's Tawergha families barred from returning home

UN says Libya's Tawergha families barred from returning home

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — The United Nations Support Mission in Libya on Friday voiced its disapproval over the barring of Tawergha families driven from their town by militias following the 2011 uprising from returning home.

The internally displaced residents of Tawergha, who have been living in camps and makeshift housing across Libya, faced threats and extortion while making their way to their hometown on Thursday, a UNSMIL statement said.

In December, Libya's U.N.-backed government based in Tripoli said Tawergha families would be able to return to their hometown in February following a reconciliation deal with representatives from Tawergha and Misrata city, which fought on opposing sides during 2011.

UNSMIL called for the implementation of the deal and the return of Tawergha residents to their town.

Tawergha was used as a staging ground for attacks on Misrata during the uprising that eventually toppled and killed longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Anti-Gadhafi militias, mainly from Misrata, later drove out its residents — most of whom were dark skinned — believing they had aided Gadhafi's forcesd. It has since been a ghost town.

Human Rights Watch estimates that about 40,000 have been displaced from the town.

Tawergha resident Emad Argeea told The Associated Press that Misrata militiamen barred him and others from returning to their hometown and they headed to the town of Bani Walid instead.

On Wednesday, the municipal council of Misrata called on the Tripoli-based government to postpone its decision to allow Tawergha residents to return to the town. It cited escalations by some parties that disrupted security arrangements as the reason for its call.

Later, the Tripoli-based government said it was looking into the issue and urged parties to the agreement to coordinate with the relevant authorities to ensure the safe return of Tawergha's residents.

Libya plunged into a ruinous civil war following the 2011 uprising. It is now split between rival governments in the east and the west, each backed by a myriad of militias.