For years, until last summer, the Kani brothers held a small Libyan town in their murderous grip, massacring men, women and children to maintain their authority. Now their crimes are slowly being uncovered. For seven months, workers in white chemical protection suits have been returning to the small agricultural town of Tarhuna, about an hour’s drive south-east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. They have marked out neat rectangles with red-and-white tape, across the fields of reddish-brown earth, and from these plots they have lifted 120 dead bodies, though large areas still remain untouched. The graves are the gruesome legacy of a reign of terror, lasting nearly eight years, imposed on the town by a local family, the Kanis, and the militia they created. Three of the original seven Kani brothers are now dead, and the others were made to flee in June 2020 by forces loyal to Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), but even now many residents of Tarhuna are afraid to speak out about their crimes. Some say they are still being threatened from afar by the Kanis’ supporters. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court has opened an inquiry into the Tarhuna killings, and Mohammed al-Kani has been placed on a US Government sanctions list. But, under general Haftar’s protection, he and his remaining brothers are unlikely to face justice any time soon.
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