CAIRO (AP) — The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for a Libyan commander said to have been involved in the killing of 33 captives in "cold blood" earlier this year.
Mahmoud al-Warfalli heads an anti-terrorism unit under Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, who commands a self-styled national army that is battling Islamic militants in the east. Hifter is allied with a government based in the east and is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, which is hosting him this week.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the charges on Tuesday, saying "such egregious crimes, including the cruel and de-humanizing manner by which they were perpetrated against helpless victims, must be stopped."
He called on Libyan authorities to hand over al-Warfalli to the court.
Al-Warfalli, who himself is an ultraconservative Islamist, is suspected of being behind a string of killings in the eastern city of Benghazi, where bodies have been found in garbage dumps with their hands bound and with gunshots to the head.
The ICC says al-Warfalli has been featured in several online videos. One video, dated June 3, purports to show al-Warfalli ordering a hooded man to raise his hands before opening fire. After the hooded man falls to the ground, al-Warfalli approaches the body and fires several more times. He tells the man: "You have been misled by Satan."
Some of the men he is suspected of killing were believed to have been linked to al-Qaida and the Ansar al-Shariah group, which was blamed for the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch urged Hifter to investigate allegations that his forces committed war crimes.
Libya sank into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Today it is split between rival parliaments and governments in the east and west, each backed by a set of militias, tribes and political factions.