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Libya: Water cut off after sabotage threats over Gaddafi's cousin

Authorities cut supply after gunmen stormed several water distribution centres demanding release of Abdullah al-Senussi
Former Libyan intelligence chief - and Muammar Gaddafi's cousin - Abdullah Senussi (back left) behind the bars of the accused cell during his Court of Appeals trial in Libyan capital Tripoli on 28 July 2015 (AFP)

Libyan authorities have shut off water supplies to large areas of the country after gunmen demanding the release of a jailed Gaddafi-era official threatened to sabotage the water network, AFP reported.

Supplies to western and southwestern Libya were interrupted overnight on Saturday to Sunday, the Great Man-Made River water authority said.

It took the decision to cut the supply after gunmen stormed several water distribution centres on Thursday demanding the release of Abdullah al-Senussi.

A brother-in-law of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Senussi was sentenced to death in 2015 over his alleged role in attempting to suppress the 2011 uprising that culminated in Gaddafi's overthrow and killing.

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On Thursday, gunmen gave authorities 72 hours to release Senussi from detention in the capital, Tripoli, the water authority said.

If their demands were not met they planned on attacking the network that brings water from underground in the Sahara to Tripoli.

A statement from the Great Man-Made River authority said it was preferable to cut the water supply than see it damaged in any potential attack.

Senussi was extradited in September 2012 by Mauritania, to where he fled after Gaddafi's fall.

He was the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for suspected war crimes during the 2011 uprising.

In 2013 the court gave Libyan authorities the green light to put him on trial.