Libyan Tawergha families displaced in 2011 to return home

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BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libyan families displaced from the town of Tawergha after being driven out by militias following the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that evolved into a ruinous civil war can return in February, the head of the United Nations-backed government in the capital, Tripoli, said.

The decision, announced Tuesday by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, follows a reconciliation deal between representatives of Tawergha and the city of Misrata, which previously fought on opposing sides. Serraj's government ratified the agreement in June.

Tawergha was used as a staging ground for attacks on Misrata during the uprising that eventually toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Anti-Gadhafi militias, mainly from Misrata, ransacked the town and drove out its residents, believing they had aided Gadhafi's forces. Tawergha, located some 38 kilometers (23 miles) south of Misrata, has been a ghost town since.

Tawergha's residents have since been living in camps and makeshift housing across Libya. Human Rights Watch estimates the number of those displaced from the town to stand at about 40,000. The Tawergha community is a racially distinct group with darker skin than most Libyans, making it even harder for them to navigate the country's chaotic post-revolutionary environment.

Libya descended into chaos since 2011 and is now split between rival governments and myriad militias.

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