Colleagues have been mourning the death of Mohamed Ben Khalifa, a freelance photographer who worked for RT’s video agency Ruptly and AP. Khalifa was killed by a stray shell south of Tripoli while on the job.
Ben Khalifa was killed on Saturday near Libya’s capital, Tripoli, that has been seeing a flare-up of violence between rival militias since Wednesday. AFP reported, citing security sources, that the photographer came under shelling that targeted the positions of the group with which he was embedded at the moment.
Ben Khalifa is survived by his wife and five-month-old baby daughter.
Condolences have been pouring in to the family of the 35-year-old from the journalist community in Libya, where he was known as one of the leading photographers, and beyond.
Being a freelance artist, Ben Khalifa had worked with RT’s video agency Ruptly since 2016. He had also collaborated with the Associated Press.
During his three years with Ruptly, Ben Khalifa produced some 30 stories, covering clashes from the frontlines of the Libyan unrest as well as the plight of migrants venturing on a perilous journey to cross Mediterranean in a bid to reach Europe and escape turmoil at home.
Ben Khalifa was held in high esteem by his colleagues both as a model professional and as a person.
“He was amazing to work with, very reliable, very humble and a great character,” his colleagues at Ruptly remember him.
Ruptly is getting in touch with his family to provide any assistance that might be needed and has offered its condolences to the journalist’s loved ones.
“RUPTLY was saddened to learn of the death of journalist @mbenkhalifaly who lost his life during clashes in Tripoli today. Over the past 3 years, he worked with us to deliver high-quality reports in difficult circumstances. We send our deepest condolences to his family,” the agency said in a statement.
Ben Khalifa is the fourteenth journalist or media worker to have been killed since the onset of the Libyan unrest and subsequent Western intervention in 2011. Most of them were killed in crossfires, according to data by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
This week’s spate of violence have already claimed lives of 13 people, injuring a further 52, according to the latest figures from the Libyan Health Ministry. Women and children were among the victims.
The tense situation around the Libyan capital spiraled into outright violence on Wednesday morning, when militias from the Seventh Brigade from the eastern town of Tarhouna launched an assault on forces loyal to the government south of Tripoli. Witnesses reported loud sounds of gunfire and blasts that swept through the area, forcing many of the residents to flee. The escalation has dealt a blow to the shaky truce brokered by the UN in September. Then, the skirmishes that broke out after the Seventh Brigade closed in on the city in August had left 117 people dead and more than 500 injured.
Libya continues to be torn between various militant factions since the toppling and murder of Muammar Gaddafi in civil unrest fueled by a NATO-led military intervention. The fighting left Libya in shambles, sparking mass migration into Europe and allowing human traffickers to flourish in a war-ravaged country. The UN-backed Government of National Accord in the country’s west struggles to assert control even over allied militias in Tripoli, while the east of the country is controlled by Libyan National Army (LNA) under strongman Khalifa Haftar. Recently, forces loyal to the general moved to reclaim oil and gas production sites from the extremists in the south of the country, expanding their influence.
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