A Libyan military commander sought by international prosecutors for mass murder has been photographed apparently at liberty with comrades, despite his superiors insisting he had been arrested in an internal investigation.
Mahmoud al-Werfaly, the subject of an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his involvement in a string of executions, was pictured on social media on Wednesday, casting doubt on claims by the self-described “Libyan National Army,” or LNA, that he had been arrested.
Tweets said the picture was taken in or around Ajdabiya and Bin Jawad, east of Sirte, the former stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) group. MEE cannot independently verify the exact location.
A Facebook page dedicated to Werfaly, titled “commander of the axes of lightning,” published a similar photograph. Dozens of comments wished “God’s protection” for the ICC fugitive.
The photographs cast doubt on LNA claims Werfaly had been arrested last month. A statement to the ICC said: “We inform you that the defendant in your judicial case, Mahmoud al-Werfaly, is under investigation for the cases against him by the general military prosecutor and is now under arrest.”
The photographs were posted days after the publication of an open-source investigation into Werfaly’s involvement in executions, which used online evidence to support the details of the ICC arrest warrant.
The probe, by the online investigation group Belingcat, proves that some executions were carried out during the so-called “Operation Dignity” in and around the eastern town of Benghazi, the power base of LNA forces.
In one video he is seen shooting a hooded prisoner with a machine gun. Another of the videos shows him killing two men with shots to the back of the head. A third shows him ordering the mass execution of dozens of prisoners dressed in orange boiler suits.
Werfaly is charged with murder as a war crime under Article 8(2)(c)(i) of the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, which is the “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture”.
The LNA is loyal to the renegade general, Khalifa Haftar, who despite refusing to recognise the UN-backed government in Tripoli has been backed by several foreign governments, including Britain.
Late last month, the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, backed Haftar’s fight against “terror” during a visit to Benghazi.
“On terror there is no question… in the lawless areas of Libya you have umpteen militias vying for control with the Libyan National Army,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.
He did not mention the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
The LNA insists it is fighting “terrorists” in Libya.