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Libya chaos spurs human smuggling, government spokesman says

April 21, 2015

CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s chaos has spurred human trafficking, a spokesman for the country’s internationally recognized government said Tuesday, urging the world community to help his administration gain control of the rest of the country.

The appeal comes as violence in Libya surges and more and more crowded refugee rafts head to Europe, many of which have capsized, leaving hundreds feared dead. Libya has two rival governments, each claiming legitimacy as their allied militias fight across the country.

The smuggling of migrants to Europe via Libya generates massive amounts of illicit money, some of which ends up in the hands of militant groups, Hatem al-Aribi said in an interview in the eastern city of Bayda.

“There are those who are using Libya as a safe passage in the current situation, especially given the inability to secure the entire Libyan territory,” al-Aribi told The Associated Press. “The amount of money involved in this trade is huge, and we have intelligence that some of this money goes to terrorist organizations.”

He urged the international community to support his government’s attempts to secure control of the entire country, and Europeans in particular to coordinate with his government to stop the trade, which profits from desperate refugees fleeing war and poverty across the Middle East and Africa.

Al-Aribi’s government is based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and is facing off against a rival, Islamist-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.

The Tobruk government’s military is being led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who has vowed to rid the country of Islamist militias but has struggled to make inroads against his main rival, a militia coalition known as Libya Dawn that is loyal to the Tripoli-based government.

Last weekend, the dangers of a Libya in anarchy were exemplified by Islamic State militants who released a video of them purportedly shooting and beheading groups of captive Ethiopian Christians. The attack widened the circle of nations affected by the group’s atrocities while showing it has carved out strongholds in Libya and grown beyond its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

Al-Aribi said that the government had a duty to foreign nationals in the country and would investigate the video to confirm whether it really happened inside Libya and what the nationalities of the victims were.

“We initiated an investigation to confirm the authenticity of the video posted on social media,” he said.

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