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Libyan militias prevent residents returning home to 'Gaddafi' ghost town

Rebels captured Tawergha in 2011 [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 February, 2018

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A former stronghold of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, near the Libyan city of Misrata, remains empty as militias prevent residents from returning home.
Residents from a Libyan ghost town once loyal to former dictator Muammar Gaddafi have been prevented from returning to their homes by a local militia.

Some of the 40,000 residents were due to reach Tawergha - around 25 miles south of the port city of Misrata - Thursday, but were halted by armed fighters who set up roadblocks outside the town.

"We are now about 14 kilometres (eight miles) to the east of Tawergha... with other families coming from Tripoli and we're trying to enter," one resident told AFP.

"There are also many families who have come in their cars from eastern Libya."

The 150 residents left Benghazi and attempted to reach Tawergha when they were turned back to their overnight stopping point, Harawa.

"Now we have returned to Harawa because the security situation in the area where we were wasn't good," Mohammed al-Tawerghi, a community spokesman, told Reuters

The residents have been homeless since a revolution overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.

Forces loyal to the dictator used Tawergha as a base for operations against rebels in Misrata, leading to militias expelling residents in retribution after its fall. 

Since then the residents from the former Gaddafi loyalist town have been living in wretched conditions and frequent targets of local militias.

A deal struck by the UN-recognised, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) struck a deal in Decemeber that aimed at having the residents return home early February.

Residents have lived in camps outside the capital Tripoli and other parts of the country for the past six years.

Analysis from aerial and satellite imagery in 2013 showed 1,690 damaged or destroyed buildings, long after clashes had subsided. More than 90 per cent appeared to have been damaged due to fire, Human Rights Watch reported at the time.

"An entire community is being held hostage to crimes allegedly committed by a few," Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in 2013.

The predominately Black Tawerghans were broadly supportive of Gaddafi.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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