A Libyan commander accused of summary executions was released from military-enforced house arrest on Thursday, the same day the International Criminal Court issued a second warrant against him.
Mahmoud Warfalli, an officer in the Libyan National Army (LNA), is accused of executing dozens of alleged extremist militants over the course of a year and a half. The ICC issued the first warrant against him in August last year over seven incidents in which 33 people were killed.
The LNA has been accused of failing to act on the arrest warrant and curb Mr Warfalli's behaviour. Yet it is now understood that Mr Warfalli had been kept under house arrest at the LNA’s Rajma base near its main stronghold of Benghazi.
A close relative said that Mr Warfalli was released on Thursday following talks with the LNA command, contradicting rumours that he had escaped.
Mr Warfalli has appeared in eight videos where he appears to either order or carry out the execution of captives. One video widely circulated on social media appears to show him executing 10 prisoners in front of the Biyat Al Radwan mosque in Benghazi on January 24, a day after a car bombing outside the mosque killed dozens of people. Mr Warfalli was a frequent visitor to the mosque.
Mr Warfalli divides opinion like almost no one else in Libya. To some, he is seen as a hero who led the fight against terrorism in eastern Libya. His supporters say the men he is accused of executing were ISIS or Al Qaeda and their killing was therefore justifiable.
Mr Warfalli’s opponents accuse him of using the same tactics as the extremists he seeks to rid Libya of. In the prelude to his apparent execution videos he often quotes the Quran as justification for his actions.
As commander in the LNA's special forces or Saiqa, he is regarded as one of its strongest fighters and has widespread support within the division. He is also a member of Libya's largest tribe, the Warfalla, and, as such, has a great deal of support from them too.