Swathes of Libya without water after sabotage threats

Supplies to western and southwestern Libya were interrupted overnight from Saturday to Sunday. PHOTO: REUTERS

TRIPOLI (AFP) - Libyan authorities have shut water supplies to swathes of the country after gunmen demanding the release of a jailed Gaddafi-era official threatened to sabotage the water network.

Supplies to western and southwestern Libya were interrupted overnight on Saturday to Sunday (Aug 14-15), the Great Man-Made River water authority said.

It took the decision to cut the supply after gunmen on Thursday stormed several water distribution centres 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 ouster and killing.

On Thursday, gunmen gave the 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 which brings water from underground wells 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, 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.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.