Libya immigrants imprisoned, tortured

Bamako - A rights group on Wednesday accused Libya's new authorities of jailing and torturing some 300 foreigners, mostly Tuaregs from Mali and Niger, suspected of being backers of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"What is happening in Libya is very serious. Foreigners, essentially Tuaregs from Mali and Niger, are being jailed and tortured," said Ousmane Ag Ahmed of Defense of foreigners in Libya, a non-governmental organisation.

The group, based in the northern Malian town of Kidal and in the northern Niger town of Agadez, was set up by nationals from both countries after the start of the anti-Gaddafi revolt in Libya last February.

Ahmed said these foreigners, numbering about 300, were merely suspected of being backers of Gaddafi, whose regime was toppled in August.

Mali and Niger were among the countries that benefited the most from Gaddafi's generosity.

"Tuaregs are being tortured, hunted in the streets," said the NGO, citing the case of six reported missing and rumoured to have been killed and buried in a mass grave, according to testimony gathered in Libya.

The NGO said it had asked the governments of Mali and Niger to help secure the release of their nationals.

Security sources in the region have meanwhile raised fears over the return of many armed Tuaregs who fought for Gaddafi, and the risk of destabilisation in a region already plagued by al-Qaeda-linked extremism and drug trafficking.

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