Libya prisoner release is ‘nationwide reconciliation’ in action, says UN

More than 100 soldiers freed in sign that Libya’s new unity government can deliver

epa09108605 Prisoners of war (in white), who were fighters in the forces of Libya's eastern military Chief Khalifa Haftar, arrive for a ceremony held for their release by the new Libyan unity government in the city of Zawiya, some 45 kilometer west of Tripoli, Libya, 31 March 2021. About 120 prisoners of the 107th brigade of Haftar's forces have been released following the latest UN-backed peace deal between former rival sides. The fghters had been made prisoners during General Haftar's forces offensive to take Tripoli in April 2019.  EPA/STRINGER
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The UN’s mission to Libya on Wednesday welcomed the release of military prisoners in the country as a sign of “nationwide reconciliation” after the recent formation of a unity government.

Forces in western Libya on Wednesday freed 107 prisoners in a gesture of good-will after recent accords.

The troops were captured while fighting for the country's eastern-based military chief, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, in his Libyan National Army.

They were released in the coastal city of Zawiya in a televised event attended by top officials from the newly appointed transitional Government of National Unity (GNU).

In a tweet, the UN mission to Libya, known as UNSMIL, said it “welcomes the efforts undertaken by Government of National Unity on national reconciliation, launched today with the release of 107 detainees by the city of Zawiya”.

“UNSMIL hopes that this initiative constitutes the beginning of a nationwide reconciliation and of restoring Libya’s social fabric, and calls for the release of all detainees before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan” in mid-April.

Those freed wore traditional white uniforms and caps at the ceremony in a soccer stadium, before rejoining their families.

The move was welcomed by officials in Libya as a sign of reconciliation after years of fighting between rival governments in the east and west of the country, each backed by a vast array of militias and foreign powers.

Field Marshal Haftar's troops launched an offensive in April 2019 to try to capture the capital Tripoli from militias, but the campaign collapsed last June.

The warring sides cut a ceasefire deal in October that largely ended fighting and paved the road for UN-led political talks.

They led to the appointment of an interim government in February, ahead of elections in December.

The North African oil exporter has been ravaged by chaos and bloodshed since a Nato-backed uprising led to the removal and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.