Story highlights

Human Rights Watch says Misrata militias shot unarmed Tawergha residents

HRW: Misrata resdients accuse Tawerghans of committing murders and rapes in Misrata

"Revenge ... undermines the goal of the Libyan revolution," a Watch official says

NTC military spokesman vows to investigate crimes

Tripoli, Libya CNN  — 

Allegations of vengeful attacks against residents of Tawergha and Sirte – both cities believed to have sided with former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi – will be investigated, a military spokesman for Libya’s National Transitional Council said Sunday

But Col. Ahmed Bani did not offer specifics during an interview with CNN, saying only generally that every alleged crime that occurred in the course of the Libyan conflict will be investigated, regardless of past loyalties. Investigative committees have already been formed, he said.

Bani did not directly respond to allegations in a Human Rights Watch report that accused anti-Gadhafi militias of launching retaliatory attacks against former Gadhaffi loyalists.

The HRW report, titled “Militias Terrorizing Residents of ‘Loyalist’ Town,” alleges that militias from the Libyan city of Misrata have beaten and killed displaced residents from the nearby town of Tawergha, a city 30 miles away from Misrata that became a fortified launch pad for Gadhaffi’s military operations against rebels in Misrata.

Militias see Tawargha residents as traitors, and have accused them of siding with pro-Gadhafi forces and committing violent crimes in Misrata, according to the HRW report.

The rights group said Sunday it interviewed dozens of Tawergha residents across the country, including those detained or displaced.

“They gave credible accounts of some Misrata militias shooting unarmed Tawerghans, and of arbitrary arrests and beatings of Tawerghan detainees, in a few cases leading to death.”

CNN could not immediately verify the claims.

Local authorities and Misrata residents widely accuse Tawerghans of having committed serious crimes – including murders and rapes – in Misrata with forces loyal to ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Human Rights Watch said.

The group said pro-Gadhafi forces used Tawergha as a base for attacks on Misrata and the surrounding area from March until August.

Many Tawerghans supported the 42-year ruler, whose regime claimed that Libyan opposition fighters would enslave Tawerghans if they took power, Human Rights Watch said.

The group said Tawergha – once a town of 30,000 residents – is now abandoned, with some areas ransacked and burned.

Most of the Tawerghans interviewed by the group said they had fled in mid-August, when Libyan opposition forces entered the town. Militias quickly forced out those who remained, the group said.

“They came outside my house and told us we had to leave our homes,” 80-year-old Muhammad Grayra Tawergi, a retired date farmer, told the rights group. “We were unarmed.”

Human Rights Watch called for Libya’s new leadership – the National Transitional Council – to bring central control and accountability “to the more than 100 armed groups from Misrata.”

“Revenge against the people from Tawergha, whatever the accusations against them, undermines the goal of the Libyan revolution,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “In the new Libya, Tawerghans accused of wrongdoing should be prosecuted based on the law, not subject to vigilante justice.”

Human Rights Watch is a prominent non-profit, human-rights advocacy group with headquarters in New York.

CNN’s Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.