Children were among the main victims of militants in Derna

North Africa

In Derna, two sisters, Nour and Zuhour found themselves without their parents in the middle of the clashes between the Libyan National Army and terrorist organisations.

The recent spout of military conflict in the eastern Libyan city of Derna left behind thousands of victims, the most vulnerable of whom are the children of the city, who have had no part to play in the political crisis in the country over the past 7 years.

The father of the two sisters was murdered by the militants who deemed him to be an apostate due to his links with the former Internal Security Service. Their mother later began to suffer from mental issues and was no longer able to look after Nour and Zuhour, who were left homeless and wandering the streets of Derna.

The children then found themselves caught in the clashes between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council. During the clashes they were inflicted by injuries and were later treated by the Red Crescent as the LNA took control of the city.

The city of Derna has been a hub of militant activity ever since the Gaddafi era. It has been well-known for its conservative character and links to various Islamist militant groups, who vied for power in the city following the toppling of Gaddafi.

Much of Derna was taken by ISIS during its ascendancy in 2014, although some areas were under the control of rival groups such as the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade. A separate alliance of Islamist groups joined forces to form the Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna to fight against ISIS, which was ousted from the city a number of times over the course of a two-year battle.

Military clashes then erupted again in May 2018 as the LNA, the military wing of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives government of eastern Libya, launched a military operation to take control of the city. This battle lasted almost two months and led to a humanitarian crisis and bouts of human rights abuses. A UN report outlined the shortages of basic necessities as the city was besieged by the LNA and its residents trapped inside and called on the fighting parties to “meet their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law”.

Derna was eventually brought under the full control of the LNA who ousted the Shura Council of Mujahideen towards the end of June 2018. A period of stability has seen followed and humanitarian organisation such as The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Red Crescent have been able to enter Derna and provide aid to children like Nour and Zuhour.

Image: Libya Al Hadath