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Libyan commander wanted by ICC 'escapes prison'

By AFP - Jul 12,2018 - Last updated at Jul 12,2018

Members of the self-styled Libyan National Army, loyal to the country's east strongman Khalifa Haftar, fire mortar shells during clashes with militants in Benghazi's central Akhribish district on July 19, 2017 (AFP photo)

BENGHAZI, Libya — A Libyan commander wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes has "escaped" from prison, the forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar said.

Haftar, head of the self-styled Libyan National Army, "has ordered the rearrest of commander Mahmoud Al Werfalli after his escape from the military prison" where he was detained, a statement said.

The statement, released overnight on Wednesday-Thursday, did not mention when Werfalli escaped.

The ICC issued a first warrant for Werfalli's arrest in August last year, accusing him of having ordered or personally carried out seven executions between March and July 2017 and in June 2016 that were filmed and posted to social media sites.

On July 5, 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 ten persons in front of the Bi'at Al Radwan Mosque" in Libya's second city Benghazi on January 24.

Born in 1978, Werfalli is a commander of the Al Saiqa brigade, an elite unit that defected from Libya's military during the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qadhafi.

Werfalli subsequently fought on the same side as the LNA and its leader Haftar, who refuses to recognise the authority of a UN-backed government based in Tripoli and supports a parallel administration in eastern Libya. 

In February, Werfalli said in a video posted on his Facebook account that he had surrendered to LNA military police after the ICC issued its first arrest warrant. This information could not be independently verified.

Forces loyal to Haftar indicated in August last year that they had arrested Werfalli and said he was the subject of an "investigation in front of the military prosecutor general".

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has repeatedly called for Werfalli's arrest, including by appealing to Haftar to hand him over during an address to the UN Security Council in November 2017.

She has also called for the arrest of Qadhafi's son Seif Al Islam and former internal security chief Al Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled for alleged war crimes.

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