Murzuq, Libya
Murzuq, Libya (Google Maps)

GENEVA - The United Nations reports the small oasis town of Murzuq in southwestern Libya has suffered one of the largest losses of civilian life this month since civil war broke out in 2011 following the overthrow of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Escalating violence reportedly has killed at least 90 civilians and injured more than 200 in the small oasis town of Murzuq this month.  OCHA, the U.N. office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reports airstrikes by planes and drones, indiscriminate rocket attacks and shelling, as well as ground fighting have increased the casualty count on all sides of the fighting.  

Additionally, the U.N. migration agency reports nearly 9,500 people have been displaced within the town municipality.  OCHA spokesman, Jens Laerke, told VOA people are fleeing from one area to another to get out of the way of aerial and drone attacks.

“They are, of course, terrified that if they move, they will be perceived as affiliated to one side or the other and may be targeted.  So, that is why our call really is for those doing the fighting to allow people to leave if they so wish so they can reach a place where they can be assisted and, of course, to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Laerke said.

Murzuq is a casualty of the increasingly bitter and lethal fighting between two main armed political factions in Libya.  The self-styled Libyan National Army led by renegade General Khalifa Haftar raised the fighting to a higher level when his forces moved to seize the capital Tripoli in April.  That is where the Government of National Accord, which is recognized by the United Nations as the legitimate government of Libya, is based.

Laerke said Murzuq, a town of fewer than 13,000 people, is facing a humanitarian crisis.  He said people desperately need medical supplies, food, water and sanitation, tents, blankets and hygiene kits.

However, he said aid agencies have limited access to people displaced in the town.  He said active fighting, as well as damaged roads and roadblocks, are making it almost impossible to assist the civilians trapped there.

He added that it was easier to reach those who have taken refuge in the few centers for displaced people on the outskirts of the town.  U.N. aid agencies are appealing to the warring parties for unimpeded access to all victims of this manmade humanitarian disaster.

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