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UN experts urge powerful Libyan commander’s forces to stop evicting residents and demolishing homes

CAIRO (AP) — Experts commissioned by the United Nations on Monday called on the troops of a powerful Libyan military commander to stop evicting residents and demolishing their homes in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

The experts said in a statement that the Libyan National Army, commanded by Khalifa Hifter, has removed more than 20,000 residents from their homes since March “at very short notice.”

They also said the devastation in the city center is “spreading in an alarmed manner”, with residents being displaced and forced to give up their property or ownership documents.

The demolition is part of a development project in the city, according to local reports.

“The deliberate demolition, including of historic districts, protected heritage sites and many housing units, has already caused irreparable damage to the urban architecture and living heritage of the city,” the experts said.

A spokesman for Hifter’s armed forces did not respond to requests for comment.

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The experts said authorities in eastern Libya were not providing “any assistance”, including compensation to affected residents, and those protesting their removal were pressured or silenced by power cuts, intimidation and violence.

The affected areas remained closed to the public, they said. Al-Wasat, a Libyan news website, reported earlier this year that the demolished buildings include Italianate-style houses built during the Italian occupation of Libya in the first half of the 20th century.

Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, was the epicenter of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later assassinated.

The city became the stronghold for Hifter’s forces in 2014, when the powerful commander launched a major military operation against militant groups and other armed factions. Much of the city was destroyed in the fighting.

Oil-rich Libya plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising and is now ruled by rival governments in the east and west. They are all backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

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