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Bodies of 36 people found shot dead in Libya

Bodies found in al-Abyar, about 70km east of Benghazi, were those of suspected militants, including 19 foreigners
Members of Libyan National Army, loyal to country's eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, ride tank in central Benghazi in July as they celebrate retaking area from militants (AFP)

The bodies of 36 people shot dead were found near Benghazi, in eastern Libya, a security official said on Sunday.

The bodies, found in al-Abyar, about 70km east of Benghazi, were those of suspected militants, including 19 foreigners, the official said.

The United Nations mission in Libya said it "condemns in the strongest terms the heinous crime resulting in the killing of at least 36" people.

It called for an immediate investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Controversial strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose self-proclaimed Libyan National Army controls the region, ordered an inquiry to find their killers, the pro-Haftar LANA news agency reported.

In Tripoli, a national unity government opposed to an eastern administration backed by Haftar called the slayings a "heinous crime and a horrible act," and said it would also launch an investigation.

Fighters in Haftar's LNA, which has battled militant groups since 2014, have in the past been accused of involvement in summary executions of detained fighters.

LANA said Haftar's probe would seek to uncover whether those killed were detained at the time.

In August, the International Criminal Court called for the arrest of a senior commander in an elite force fighting alongside Haftar's LNA.

Accused of war crimes

The officer, Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, is accused of war crimes in at least seven incidents in 2016 and 2017.

Werfalli's brigade was involved in a three-year battle to rid Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, of militants.

ICC judges allege he personally shot or ordered the execution of people who were either civilians or injured fighters. 

They say he was behind 33 execution-style killings there.

Haftar's forces said he was already under arrest and would be tried by a military court. 

Libya has been ripped apart by conflicts between multiple militias and two rival governments.

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