GENEVA - The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights reports the Islamic State Group is resorting to reprisal killings and other barbaric measures to crush dissent in Sirte, Libya.
The U.N. human rights office says it is extremely concerned by the brutality with which Islamic State militants recently squashed a rebellion by Libyan civilians in the city of Sirte.
Fighting erupted in the city on August 10 after IS fighters shot dead a local Imam known for his opposition to the militants. Residents told the U.N. Support Mission in Libya that most civilians have fled the area in fear.
Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville, said the apparent opposition of civilians has triggered a wave of reprisals by the extremists, also known as ISIL.
“The total number of fatalities is currently not known, but unconfirmed estimates received by UNSMIL [UN Support Mission in Libya] range between four and 38 killed. By 13 August, ISIL had reportedly captured at least 16 men from the 3rd district, and we have serious concerns about their safety," he said.
"Witnesses have reported seeing four bodies hung from poles in three separate locations, including a roundabout, in Sirte," said Colville. "It is unclear at this point whether these individuals were killed during the course of the fighting or had been summarily executed.”
'Public flaunting' of murders
IS fighters have taken advantage of the chaos reigning in Libya by making advances into Sirte and other areas of the country.
While they occupied the city of Derna, Colville said the militants killed members of a prominent family and put their bodies on public display. He said they also carried out at least four public summary executions and an amputation.
“It seems that the public flaunting of these murders is intended to send a message to anyone challenging ISIL in Libya. Groups affiliated with ISIS have also been targeting individuals on the basis of their religion," said Colville. "Sadly, as we have seen in recent days, ISIL supporters in Libya continue to commit serious human rights abuses on a regular basis, and seem impervious to the suffering of civilians and the rule of law.”
Sirte is the only city over which IS retains total control. Libya is divided between an internationally recognized government in the eastern city of Tobruk and an Islamist government based in the capital Tripoli.
Both rival governments have conducted air strikes against IS in recent days.